Tuesday, 24 June 2008



CY: Hi David.

DAVID: I haven't seen your show yet. It's at Tate Modern 19th June-14th September 2008.

CY: You should go.

DAVID: I keep meaning to, Cy. I'm a great lover of your kind of thing.

CY: What is that - my kind of thing?

DAVID: Oh you know.... doodles.

CY: You're very kind.

DAVID: Too kind, Cy. I lack critical distance. Take this conversation.

CY: I am fond of... doodles.

DAVID: But the reason I haven't been to the show yet is this. I'm struggling to combine your fifty year long exploration of the art of the doodle with the knowledge that they sell for millions of dollars. It doesn't seem right. Doodling should be free like air or water.

CY: People have made millions from selling water.

DAVID: That isn't the point I wanted to make.

CY: Personally, I haven't found mega-wealth a problem, if that makes it any easier for you.

DAVID: It doesn't. So rather than go straight away to Tate Modern, I've gone back to an early period of your doodling career at Black Mountain College.

CY: That was a long time ago.

DAVID: To... I don't know... find some space of freedom in your work-

CY: I can't even remember what I was doing then...

DAVID: You were doodling free of all the accumulations of age, criticism, art history, and commercialism that today your work engages in a Titanic struggle with and, frankly, loses -

CY: I have been feeling very tired lately. Maybe you're right.

DAVID: Of course I'm right. There was a conference here in London recently-

CY: About me. I read about it.

DAVID: About you, Cy. Did you go?

CY: I... I was in the middle of the Caspian sea.

DAVID: How convenient. Well I thought of going. Georgio Agamben was speaking. I'd like to hear him. But then I thought: No. I don't respond to your work on that level. I was sickened by the thought of all those intellectuals feeding off your work, just as I'm sickened by how much money your paintings cost.

CY: I'm sorry. Couldn't you just try and enjoy how big they are? Some of my recent work is really enormous.

DAVID: I want to respond differently. That's why I was thinking about Black Mountain College because when you read about it that always seems a pretty down to earth, uninhibited place. Everyone looking at each others paintings, talking openly and honestly, then sleeping with each other -

CY: You're not going to kiss my paintings are you?


CY: Promise?

DAVID: I promise.

CY: Good. Lawyers are expensive.

[At this point our conversation is interrupted. Cy is receiving a call on his mobile phone. I can hear very little, but I am surprised to hear that he appears to be talking to Rindy Sam, the French artist who was taken to court for kissing a Twombly painting in the Collection Lambert museum in Avignon, France on 18th July 2007. Sam told La Provence newspaper: " I left a kiss... A red stain remained on the canvas... This red stain is testimony to this moment, to the power of art." I was pleased that Sam and Twombly were still in touch, as I feared for their fledgling friendship after Sam's court appearance for damaging the painting, which is valued at $2m. Their conversation was private and I shall not relate it here, other than Sam's comment that Twombly had "left this [space of] white for her", which she has made before and is a contention already in the public domain]

CY: David? Are you still there?

DAVID: Yes, Cy.

CY: Sorry about that.

DAVID: It's okay.

CY: I like you. You're like me you know. Kind of intuitive, kind of intellectual. A very visual person but always writing in some strange way.

DAVID: Yes we are similar Cy. Doodlers together in the language-art interzone.

CY: But there's a difference, and as we talk I've been not listening to your words but watching your face, your mouth, your ever gesticulating hands, to try and work out what it is. I'm always reclaiming freedom. In each painting. I'm not weighed down. I moved to Europe all those years ago because its historical weight and resonance gave me room to doodle, drip and scrawl, as if I was literally in the midst of all these classical Greek statues of gods and they were all coming back to life and I was feeling- oh. I'm sorry. My private plane is ready. I have to go.

DAVID: Thankyou Cy.

CY: Thankyou David. Perhaps next time we can talk about my sculpture.

DAVID: Good luck with the show, Cy.

CY: It's going to be a good one. I can feel it. Would you like a complementary catalogue? My assistant could send you one.

DAVID: That would be lovely.