Weekly Inspiration: Cy Twombly

It's the weekend! Hooray! I know for me, the weekend is the perfect time to learn about something new. In that spirit, I've decided that every Saturday I'll share a different perspective on my work through the lens of the artists whose work inspires me.

I'm going to start with one of the most influential painters to my creative ethos, Cy Twombly. 

Featured below is one of his later works "untitled iii (Bacchus)" Notice the undulating and fervent stroke patterns evoking the frenzied passion of the title diety, Roman god of wine and celebration Bacchus. Links to myth and allusions to figures therein run throughout the corpus of Twombly's career. For me as an artist who uses my craft to express the unspoken in similarly abstract ways; I am drawn to both the visceral nature of the strokes and their underlying intensity, but more philosophically I am moved by the links he draws between abstraction and meaning through allusion and title. I am moved by the experience he calls the viewer in the gallery or museum to have in assessing the work first upon sight, then when moving closer to engross themselves in the detail, and then when they come upon the title. This multiple-stage process of understanding, to me, runs throughout The Gold Series in much the same way as Twombly: through both titling of pieces and the palimpsest integration of text on canvas. 

 Cy Twombly |  untitled iii (Bacchus) 2005

Cy Twombly |  untitled iii (Bacchus) 2005

 "Mortal Coil" 2015 

"Mortal Coil" 2015 

Compare Twombly's use of repetitive stroke with Gold Series piece "Mortal Coil".

This piece is one to the most surprisingly complex of the series despite its diminutive size. Thick layers of linseed oil and pigments swirl under a golden coil. This coil marks a meditation on the personal choices made between 2004 and 2015, when the piece was made. It is important to note that under this piece was the start of a painting from 2004; for which I felt an artistic reclamation was necessary given the nature of The Gold Series.  

The philosophical underpinnings of this piece stem both from the popular notion of "Mortal Coil" present in Shakespeare's Hamlet (scene 3 act i) therefore invoking themes of death and depression; not only of Shakespeare but the ancient Greeks. The mortal coil can take on the role suggested by Schopenhauer's reading of the history behind the play where he proposes that a typesetters error in the line "When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.." should in fact be "shuttled". This, he believes, cements a connection between "mortal coil" and the life-thread of ancient Greek mythology. Aside from these direct references; "coil" itself has a rich etymological history with a variety of meanings including culling, threshing, fuss, or a stirring.

All of these converge upon my experience as an HIV positive artist both in the obvious contemplations of death that arise with diagnosis of such a condition; but also in the act of refection on life itself.

Conditions like HIV that are accompanied by shame, stigma and fear compounded by the inescapably visceral feelings related to a disease acquired through intimacy leave open wounds that cause many to dwell on or question the relationships and choices that led to living with a body at war with itself. The complex layers below the golden thread of life representing the ebb and flow of people and choices are the perfect background for contemplation in stark, unspeakable reality.