Cy Twombly – Cold Stream, Rome – 200 x 252 cm (79 x 99 in) – oil based house paint and wax crayon on canvas
One of the most fascinating considerations in art is painting the intangible and this wonderful painting by Cy Twombly conveys this magnificently. He has presented the act of doing, inviting us to participate with our own imaginations. This is the greatest power of abstraction and I will accept his invitation and proceed with my interpretation of this intriguing painting.
I immediately engaged with the very core of abstraction, the act of marking, which we have been doing for a long time and continue to do so today. Twombly’s swirls prompted me to consider how our desire for rhythm played a prominent role in the development of writing. We see this common thread in the symbols from diverse cultures. And we do not have to be able to read the markings to appreciate the desire for rhythmic movement through the symbols or characters.
Twombly’s natural movement of the swirls represents the gestural root of writing. The composing of symbols so they flow and come to represent language is our greatest achievement. His painting provided me an uncluttered gateway to thinking how all those who’s acts of doing became the foundation of culture and civilization.
I will always look forward to Twombly’s intriguing invitations..
On another level, engaging with Twombly’s exquisite composition is a joyful dance, feeling immediate and delightful. How he contained the wonderful swirls is masterful. I found myself being elegantly guided through the painting feeling the rhythmic emphasis. Arriving at his beautifully considered focus in the third row up from the bottom where the swirls are a little tighter and more layered than the rest of the painting was a joy.
I loved how he anchored the composition at the bottom right corner with a line creating a structural triangle. Magnificent.
Mark Rothko – Untitled – 1938 – 50 x 37 in – oil on canvas
The best way to appreciate an artist’s mature work is to be as familiar as possible with their earlier work. In this painting from 1938 we see not only how varied the journey can be, but also how accomplished Rothko’s command of composition is.
We feel the couple’s relationship very strongly through his marvellous use of distortion. His integration of the couple with shapes and parallels is wonderful.
I’ll begin with how the rectangles of the structure behind are repeated in the woman’s hat and the collar of her dress. The integration ensures she is well connected with the structure, conveying a feeling of strength and stability.
Next, the couple are beautifully integrated with each other with a series of parallels. Let’s begin with the angle of the man’s left arm at the shoulder. If you follow the angle downward, your eye will connect with the angle of the black shadow on the woman. The under side of his arm also reinforces this angle. Other parallels appear in his vest and the collar of his jacket. The parallel positioning of their forward-stepping feet and their shadows bolster the rhythmic connection.
Value is most important for ensuring the importance of the movement. If you blur your eyes, the strength becomes more apparent. I should note the small parallels in the structure behind as well. Rothko was very thorough and these considerations are meant to be more felt than seen.
There is another series of short parallels, leading us in another direction, which provides more subtle integrations of the figures. They occur from their right feet up to the man’s right shoulder to the angle of the woman’s hat.
I haven’t forgotten the horizontal and vertical integrations and will let you discover how Rothko used them to integrate the couple with the background.
His thoroughness is wonderful.
To finish may I divert your attention to the fabulous spatial plane in the lower portion of the woman’s dress. Can you feel how the vertical rectangular shape just above her forward step comes forth? I love it.