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BURNAWAY - Twombly - West

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 10:42am

BURNAWAY is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide coverage of the arts in and from Atlanta and the South, to support vibrant creative communities in the region. The Emerging Art Writers Mentorship Program seeks to develop the voices of new art writers. Linnea West is a participant in the program who is pursuing a master’s in art history at the Dodd and who wrote an essay on Cy Twombly’s series of paintings Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons):

There was a specific moment when I fell in love with contemporary art; I was 19, a prime age for falling in love, as I would discover, and on a study abroad program in England. One weekend, some other students and I visited London. Along with sites like Parliament and Big Ben, we visited the Tate Modern, not so much because it was an art museum as because it was something for tourists to see and do. Vaguely, I remember walking through the galleries feeling like I was in a dream, as if I could stay there forever, or at least the day, and never need to eat or drink again, so transfixed was I with what was probably my first glimpse of great modern and contemporary art. After all, I was a young bookworm from a town in Georgia in my second semester of college, abroad as an adult for the first time. My eyes were opening to the wider world all around me, and with all the intensity of first love.

What I remember most particularly about that day was a group of four large paintings hanging in Turbine Hall, the vast entrance to the Tate Modern’s revamped industrial building. They towered over me, wild, fervid with color and covered with markings, like the kind an animal might make and that I hadn’t known could be art. And that I hadn’t known could be so beautiful. They were Cy Twombly’s series of paintings Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons), and there was a canvas for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Winter’s stark ice-white swathes floated in contrast to sidelong sweeps of black, accented by electric yellow I found surprisingly elegant. Autumn, however, was my favorite, with its rich, dark greens coated with warm magentas and molded round like mossy growing things should be. Overall, I loved how the colors in these painting shone carelessly, elegant but playing it cool, as if it were all fast and loose, a little James Dean and a little Audrey Hepburn. The scrawled phrases on the paintings (for example: the name of the represented season in Italian) gave my mind something to hold on to, as it strove to make sense of this manner of representing the world. The paintings read like half-formed poetry, lyrical passages broken by swaths of cream canvas, a respite and shelter before the next profusion of intricate, worked-up paint.

Writing about art is particulalry difficult in that it requires an extensive knowledge of [at least] two rather ornery things: writing and art. As obvious as it may sound, gaining clarity and proximity to what one thinks about visual expression is one of the sine qua nons of the task, so this program seems particulalry well-aimed. Inspiring mentors and and an outsized mission never hurt, either. Congratulations to those in and around the program. Keep it up, emerge - more and better art writing is a tremendous planetary need. And everywhere, actually.

Image: Photo of Cy Twombly's Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) via

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