The Fire that Consumes All Before It by Cy Twombly
Iranian/UK filmmaker Tina Gharavi is a director (the Bafta-nominated I Am Nasrine) and also founder of Bridge + Tunnels Productions - a media company in Newcastle that is both a production company and a community charity (education and activism). She also lectures at Newcastle University.
I am a storyteller but also an archeologist of forgotten stories. I am truth seeker...and a liar… Often I am a pedagogue, which sounds very harsh for the honey-coated bee-sting that I offer to my unsuspecting student.
— Cy Twombly "The Fire that Consumes All Before It", part of "Fifty Days at Iliam" (1977) Philadelphia Museum of Art
I studied painting. Coming across this room containing Cy Twombly's "Fifty Days at Iliam" was a moment of transformation. I was obsessive with art-- I still am-- and no doubt I was at the Museum first and foremost to see the Duchamps that they hold (also a very special collection). However, I stumbled across this room, cloaked myself in them, and transformed my vision of what art could be... up until this point I was conceptual and cerebral... this work was emotional, romantic... expressive. Yet it was also contained something political and challenging. I stayed in that room... transfixed; unbiased by knowing much about them, I found something that spoke to me. I rarely feel that now a days... things that truly change your metal... but this did. His 10 paintings are based on Alexander Pope's translation of The Iliad. Coincidentally the Odyssey and Iliad where pieces of literature that I had enjoyed... and I see resonances of them in my films which are often about journeys... so finding this was just the right thing at the right time. These works were also epic, cinematic. Though I was a painter at the time, this series was close to cinema... something that was bubbling under the surface. The piece spoke to me. It still speaks to me. Perhaps for me it is the radical nature of it. This early work foretold the scribbles of Basquiat and Emin to come... I do still love the Duchamp "Étant donnés" which I went to see as well... and in many ways I am still transfixed by this... but it is intellectual. The brain. My relationship to Twombly was losing myself and feeling everything.
Others are so much better at words than me. I am less capable. Words? There are so many. So many meanings... My work evades the logical and material. It is an emotion... or a theme... a feeling… a touch. There is nothing literal (to me anyway) about the things I make films about. They are my struggle to find language to express myself (as I am doing here). I am the least literal person I know (though I am hugely literary). Words themselves mean very little... yet the emotional resonances are a whole ocean. What word can I claim: Ephemeral... Emotional... or my favourite word(s): swimming pool. Dive in. Come right in....
What can be said about this cycle of paintings: nothing. Go see them. Experience them. Submit yourself to them. Submit. Be consumed. Allow something to transform your metal. This work moves me. And that is all that matters.