Alice Spawls reviews works by Cy Twombly at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, on view through April 24, 2017.
Spawls notes: "For all that his paintings groan under the weight of writing about them, and their own allusiveness (many feature lines of poetry or have ‘poetic’ titles), Twombly wasn’t an ideas artist. He disagreed with the notion that his pictures, with their layers of indecipherable words and crude genital drawings, were reminiscent of graffiti or toilet scribblings. Toilets weren’t beautiful, or interesting, to him. The distinction he drew was one of feeling: he used these forms in a different spirit, with a bell’anima... The more interesting reading of the paintings is as a representation of secondary effects: the fascination we have for techne, for the language of any specialisation; the way things sound better in French or Italian; or the emotional charge of the classics, particularly of lines that have come to us partially or paraphrased, like much of Sappho. It’s intriguing to think that Twombly might be trying to capture this lure of the fragmentary; certainly the intellectual discursiveness prompted by his work says something about our continuing desire to romanticise the past. But although he admired the sound of these fragments (sometimes conflated or reworded) – ‘Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor’, ‘Eros, weaver of myths’, ‘Leaving Kyros the lovely’ – the works don’t reflect on this tendency so much as enhance it. "