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Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: APF © Cy Twombly Foundation

Untitled I-IX


Cy Twombly

According to the philosopher Roland Barthes, “painting and writing began in a single area of corporeal practice with the same non-figurative and non-semantic act, which was simply rhythm”. It is indeed an emotive rhythm that is materialised in Untitled I-IX by Cy Twombly (1928–2011). What the artist called “pseudo-writing”, emotional calligraphy, the pure integrated sensation of artistic experience confronted with the vastness of the sea, offers a perfect welcome to visitors to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It introduces the public to the maritime architecture and luminous calligraphy of the museum and invites them to surrender to the emotion of the discovery of civilisations in this living light.

Musicality is also a feature of this series, which imparts its visual rhythms, oscillations and cadences to the threshold of a museum conceived as the calligraphy of memory, a place where the music of civilisations can be heard. Untitled I-IX is a set of nine monumental canvases that can be read as a whole or observed individually in all their similarity and singularity. Painted in white on blue, the series conjures up the universe in which the artist loved to work, his home in Gaeta beside the sea, beneath the blue sky of Italy. The canvases combine the influence of the American avant-garde, the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock and a personal relationship with painting as drawing and writing. As the artist stated, line “does not illustrate − it is the sensation of its own realization”. Upstrokes cadence the surfaces through their changes in scale and speed of execution, thickness of line and alternation of angular and rounded forms. Proceeding from left to right, the artist starts with almost linear marks before easing his tight control. The closer he gets to the bottom of the painting, the more sweeping his strokes become. The brushwork is sometimes insistent, going back over itself so that the lines become densely entangled and superimposed. The touch is sometimes lighter, the lines fewer and the blue background more evident. The intensity of this blue also varies from one painting to another, from a dark ink-like colour to lighter hues. White writing and blue ground sometimes merge as blots and dripping blurs the boundaries between them. These canvases are part of a series that the artist called Notes from Salalah after the name of an area in the south of Oman in the Arabian Peninsula. Formerly known as Zafar and a producer of incense, it is as lush as an oasis due to monsoons that arrive from the Indian Ocean. Even though Twombly never actually went there, this name and the legend of a wondrous oasis filled with rain and light that it conjures up inspired him at the close of his life to produce new works of creative imagination.

Artwork Details

Artist: Cy Twombly
Title: Untitled I-IX
Geography: Italy
Date: 2008

Medium: acrylic on canvas

Classification: graphic arts (drawing, painting, engraving, calligraphy)

Dimensions: 274 x 146 cm (Untitled I), 272 x 145 cm (Untitled II), 265 x 144.5 cm (Untitled III), 272 x 145 cm (Untitled IV), 261.5 x 144.5 cm (Untitled V), 266.2 x 145 cm (Untitled VI), 270 x 145 cm (Untitled VII), 267 x 145 cm (Untitled VIII), 265.4 x 144.8 cm (Untitled IX)

Inventory number: LAD 2010.012
Contact for images : [email protected]
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