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The Role Of Words In Art

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This essay will disguise words, be seen as both written lines and symbols created by the artist, how it helped construct images and convey information in art, based on the study and comparison of the art of Cy Twombly and Jean Michel Basquiat’s art.

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For me, use of words in painting is a very interesting technique; artists have been trying this in deferent periods, which is undoubtedly a dramatic impact in the history of art. Famous American abstract art master Cy Twombly is regarded as one of the most influential artists after World War II. Appeared often in his works of writing lines, as well as the deformation and arrangement of words, Twombly’s art affected by the European modern art, particularly at the period of 1951 to 1952 the affect was growing faster year after year, Twombly attended college in Montenegro, this experience has important influence to his later abstract expressionism and action painting, even has considered to be the development origin of his “writing lines style”. Some people say that Twombly is a “visual poet” who makes poetry that words cannot convey. And he is full of expressive writing lines to formalize his thoughts, philosophy and words cannot convey the important carrier of literary poetry. In 1957, Twombly wrote, “Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not scheme-it is the sensation of its own realization. ” Roland Barthes discussed in detail about the symbolism and ambiguities of the characters in Twombly’s works in the article “The wisdom of art”. He saw the figure of words in Twombly’s paintings, the random scribble stroke for Bartes is blasting for any museum. Roland Barthes even trying to find the most suitable verse for Twombly’s artistic soul from the Chinese philosophy “moral”: There was something comes from nothing, is build based on all the thoughts and experience but when is done, is done, leave it to others to judge, no more guiding. As art historian Jeffrey Weiss comments: “Twombly explain and describe a imagine phenomenology: with a hidden impulse from the ‘chaos of things”, by creating his own symbols, in a histrionic brushwork, Twombly achieved the corporality of his art work through the process of writing material “. The symbols and color mark, can be seen as the artist’s innuendo or song, every simplest strokes fills Twombly’s search for a soul mate. When the audience stands in front of Twombly’s work, it’s the most closest moment to reach him. ” Substituting “associate” for “imagination” is perhaps the best way to appreciate Twombly’s work. ‘Twombly’s “writing”, Pierre Restany state in 1961, playing on the link between graphic, pictorial style and ordinary handwriting, ‘ has neither syntax nor logic, But quivers with life ‘.

The phrase “symbols without signs” is not come from nowhere, and Twombly is not really act like a child, drawing on blank paper along with the nature. All lines, circles, marks, and also texts can be found in the artist’s history and background. With the development of technology,film, television and other kinds of video art was wildly used in the world, this material which can transform history into visual and auditory form to sharing, but to express the traditional poetry and literary, I am afraid, nothing else can compared to Twombly’s most accurate and precious interpretation. As Nicholas Serota, a former director of the Tate contemporary said at the museum while having “Twombly retrospective” in 2008, “this is the man who made the mark. ” In 1954, Twombly was recalled to the United States to become a cryptographer in the military, and he learned how to paint in the dark. In order to quickly decipher the contents of the message and send a signal, he practice and mastered shorthand technique, and the training of these deciphering words undoubtedly foreshadowed the style of his handwriting in the future. His work may seem only a few strokes, but its exaggerated style and his focus on art mean that when he finishes a painting, “Have to stay in bed for a day or two. ” To achieve these simple images will cost lots of energy that people can never imagine. Three years later, Twombly returned to art in Europe with a surrealist cryptography, the crypto became part of his art, and there is a kind of mysticism in the works. O

ne of the function which come along with bring words or text in art, is as a form of elements help to build the images, Twombly’s work Empire of Flora. White paint in this image, like clouds, the whole perspective is like god’s view look down at the entire empire, through the cloud vaguely see the color below, with mysterious, audience can’t help to bring their own imagination into this, red, blue, green, is like the burning fire pervade among the battlefield of hell; is like fireworks celebrating the Bonfire night, peace, chaos, active or calm, the audience create a scene for themselves. Empire of Flora is not complex and busy piece of painting, simple and light, but actually is compose extremely rich “things” and “emotion”, everything is hidden, all been waiting. The scattered pencil marks is like different buildings or scenes, these simple and abstract shapes leave the audience with sufficient imagination space, in the eyes of different people, it can be a lively modern city or a wild tribal village. The contrast between the manipulation of impasto plasticity and the ethereal delicacy of the scraped and scratched canvas creates a visual dynamism and breathes variety and life into the work. Bastian has recounted the corporeality of Twombly’s working process: “He smears color on with his fingers or applies it directly from the tube onto the canvas as a physical act: color becomes raw condition”.

Twombly’s works are famous for the magical use of white, also combined with other technique such as scribbling, sketching and painting, using repetitive lines, vocabulary and graffiti. Best known for his 70 years of painting, he broke the rigid line between painting and sketch, and challenged the idea of contemporary art with his “sloppy” brush strokes, which also can be seen as another form of writing. Twombly’s work, there is often an interaction between what we perceive as “painting”: the form of coloring with paint; and what we perceive as “words”: using pencil or a paint-stained brush to add text to a picture. In the society at that time, practice of adding words or even unrecognizable scrawl to paintings is not easy to be understood by the public. Even in today’s society, there are still many audiences who cannot understand the creation of this kind of “graffiti”. Twombly was not well known in his early days, with some art critics calling his work “an indulgent graffiti artist, ” “a fox in disguise, ” and a “muddled smear, ” but acknowledging that he did have a very strong personal style. Twombly himself did not want to use the word “graffiti” to describe his art. In his opinion, all the marks created on the picture, the colors spilled, the wayward strokes, and the sometimes vague and sometimes clear words all contain the deeper meaning behind the seemingly chaotic abstraction of graffiti. He once said that he may not be an “abstract” painter in a complete sense, because the substance behind each of his abstract elements has its story as the inspiration and support for his creation. This story is not a story created by the artist himself, but a story existing in the ancient civilization and art he wants to pursue.

Another advantage that words can do is the transmission of information also includes the expression of spiritual meaning, taking Cy Twombly’s painting Pan which he did in 1975 as an example. Pan is the horned and hairy half – goat god who embodies the spirit of nature the landscape and the excitement that it inspires in us. A few simple things appeared in the picture, there are two slices of delicate rhubarb is painted above the picture, extremely detailed painted and rich colors contrast with the word ‘pan’ in the center. The word ‘Pan’ and smaller, bracketed word ‘panic’ are written by pencil, the wiping gives the word a strong sense of movement, also mystery and uncontrollable wild feeling, while the trace of wiping can also be interpreted as a repression of the fear feeling, not wanting to be perceived by others. I’m not really understand the intention of the brown and orange at the bottom, but its building a tense atmosphere, can be unscrambled to piece of land, fur of pan or a pool of blood. In my personally view, the pure text ‘pan’ gives people a stronger sense of impact than a specific painting image, and also leaves more space for the audience to substitute their own imagination.

There is a lot of Pan in Cy Twombly but the rhubarb is cultivated. This is the unique charm of word in art, it brings people more than images, like Shakespeare said, ‘There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. ’ Words as human’s symbols with a long history of culture, it has different impression in everyone, strongly appealed us. Famous French philosopher Roland Barthes in evaluating the “text” of Twombly’s work said: “these words graffiti is not the same with children, the children painting graffiti is very simple, just to express their symbols, and Twombly’s work is he trying to seemingly childlike graffiti is close to adult’s symbol, is not easy”. Poussin believed that a painting could tell a story as powerfully as words, especially poetry, and he (Twombly) organized his paintings with precise composition and specific details to accurately tell stories without words, it is the transformation of words, simplify and disassembled into lines and shapes, more like flowing sentence. Cy Twombly attempting to make “visual abstract expressions” of abstract objects. For example his work ‘Achilles Mourning the Death and Patroclus’, artist using the outbreak color and negative space in this scarlet canvas achieved strong contrast and sad nothingness, expressed the unspeakable sadness and inner emptiness of Achilles, who participated in the Trojan war and was honored as “the first Greek warrior” in ancient Greek mythology, after learning of the death of his best friend, patroclus. By repeating the deep red colors, deepening the traces and applying pencil retrace, Twombly building a depth of time and dimension on a flat canvas, which can trace back to ancient times, to avoid the monotonous repetition and superficiality of the figurative expression of heavy themes in two-dimensional space.

The corresponding work, “revenge of Achilles”, adopts a similar expression, there is a sharp red sharp knife on the huge canvas, transformed into the anger of thousands years rushes up, breaking through the canvas and coming to the present time and space. Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, the artist wants to present the figurative idea on the canvas and express it through the way of abstract expression. The transformation between figurative and abstract and the integration between words and paintings are the best proof that Twombly’s works are not just childish and random painting, even these works don’t have words in it, but these lines and shapes are tight related to Twombly’s text and writing background, is another refined form of word, an artistic illusion. As Freud implied: ‘Only in art does it still happen that a man who is consumed by desires performs by mental projection something resembling the accomplishment; payment of those desires and that what he does in play produces emotional effects – thanks to artistic illusion – just as though it were something real’. The work of art, Freud indicated, satisfies the desire for meaning by affording a chance for the ‘artist’ to create and shape meaning to his or her will. As artists or shaman, you make the meaning that you would wish to find. For this reason, we ordinarily regard representational drawing as well as marking of any sort, from doodling to cursive script, as expressively revealing. It is these lines, words, colors and marks that jump across the canvas that give us the opportunity to see and feel the world through Twombly’s eyes.

Cy Twombly has been hailed by “the New York times” as “one of the greatest contemporary artists in the 20th century”, as a “eccentric” master of abstract expressionism, minimalism and pop art, who rewrite the history of the American post-war art, Twombly directly affected include Jean-michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, a large number of contemporary artists. Jean-michel basquiat as an very influential contemporary artist, also has a strong love for words. His works are full of words, sentences and deformed words as marks, which are the reflection of the artist’s aesthetic and spiritual world. The curator Klaus Kertess wrote of Basquiat: “In the beginning of his creation, there was the word. He loved words for their sense, for their sound, and for their look; he gave eyes, ears, mouth – and soul – to words. He liked to say he used words like brushstrokes. ”

Words for Basquiat and also Towmbly are not just for read and write, some says their work are more like lists, it is a way to record their daily life, but also, in a way it can be seen as an import for their art. In 1983 Henry Geldzahler questioned Basquiat about his” drawings that are like lists, ” and his reply underscores that list making was at he heart of such works:” I was making one in an airplane once, I was copying some stuff out of a Roman sculpture book. This lady said’ Oh, what are you studying. ’ I said, ‘It’s a drawing. ” Basquiat’s lists find clear artistic parallels with those of Twombly, they share a line that is both writing and image – what Roland Barthes called “inimitable line”. Their lists (word works) relate to high culture, pop culture, and, most significantly, everyday life. It is precisely because these words that he put into his works come from our daily life therefor his works can more directly strike the hearts of the audience and generate more resonance. In this point, words are more powerful than images. A Basquiat alphabet: alchemy, an evil cat, crime, crime, crown, celebrity, hotel, king, left paw, freedom, Olympics, milk, black, get nothing here. ” These were words he used often, names he returned to turning language into a spell to repel ghosts. The evident use of codes and symbols inspires a sort of interpretation-mania on the part of curators. But surely part of the point of the crossed-out lines and erasing hurricanes of colour is that Basquiat is attesting to the mutability of language, the way it twists and turns according to the power status of the speaker. Crimée is not the same as criminal, negro alters in different mouths, cotton might stand literally for slavery but also for fixed hierarchies of meaning and the way people get caged inside them. As a kind of media different from images, words exist in the daily life of every one of us. We have huge knowledge foundation for words, but the meaning of each word is not all fixed and unified, which makes words in art became flexible and various. From the perspective of artists, words cannot only help to convey the information they want to, but also the appropriate use of slang or puns can also bring entertainment and sarcasm; From the perspective of the audience, based on different cultures, backgrounds or status, the information brought by the same text will be greatly different, and everyone gets different inspirations. Besides of the meaning of words, as visual elements, there is no substitute for the unique visual effects of words.

“I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them. ” Cy Twombly used the same idea for his work herodiade, the deformation, dislocation and even cover of the words was aim to reduce people’s impression of the words itself, instead, to organically increase the associative space and achieve the re-creation in the audience’s head. Basquiat’s works are loaded with symbolism. Just like André Breton’s Surrealist poetry, the artist used language to employ a child-like automatism as he took every day phrases and turned them into cryptic poetry. Slogans like those found on “Onion Gum” (1983) are amplified by absurd repetition or obscured by the artist’s decision to cross them out and drawing even more attention to them. The linguistic elements of Basquiat’s works offer us a window into his mind as he questioned his surroundings. As noted by gallery owner, Jeffrey Deitch, “Basquiat’s canvases are aesthetic dropcloths that catch the leaks from a whirring mind. He vacuums up cultural fall-out and spits it out on the stretched canvas, disturbingly transformed. ”740/5000 Subtle and expansive, certain recurring patterns and words make up a language, and the image becomes a page in a poem, a graphical score, or a notepad. Some of these are ambiguous (“you want to read them under cover”, he says). Some resemble hieroglyphs, such as skulls, crowns and masks. His creative practices are automated – intuitive and hard to describe. Don Rubell has seen the artist struggle with a paintbrush in one hand and a copy of a Cy Twombly album in the other – “he’s completely independent in creating these incredible works, but in a way he needs something to inspire him. ” This approach is in control, even though his composition seems to be out of control.

Text, as a long history of human settle culture symbol, in different deformation, the hand of the artist for art and the world is their comprehension of refraction and performance, but also become an important clue we explore these artists, no matter from the perspective of art appreciation, or the Angle of information transmission, words and art of combining the chemical reaction is successful, in the two different periods of the artist is verified.

15 July 2020

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