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Cy Twombly: a close encounter

'His absence will be keenly felt' – Tacita Dean pays tribute to veteran painter Cy Twombly, who has died

Cy was fully intending to come to his opening dinner at Dulwich Picture Gallery on Sunday last week and only cancelled at the last moment, so it is shocking news to learn that he died yesterday afternoon. The show put him together with Poussin as an equal, and it would have pleased him enormously to see his work hanging in such parallel beauty with the painter he so admired.

His work was about the encounter – no encounter, no work. I filmed him last autumn in his small shopfront studio in Lexington, Virginia, where he was born. He'd started returning there once a year from his home in Gaeta, just north of Naples.

I gave the film his given name, Edwin Parker – Cy being a childhood nickname, because it felt closer to whom he became in the film. He was a private man but he wasn't reclusive and it was only in recent years that I learned what he looked like.

When he looked into the camera, it was the look of young Twombly arriving in Rome for the first time with the artist Robert Rauschenberg.

Cy will be missed by the many who are stopped in their tracks by one of his works – that degree of emotional beauty is rare. His absence will be keenly felt by those who through the work found the man.

It is sad knowing that he is no longer sitting, biding his time and awaiting the encounter.

• Tacita Dean's film of Cy Twombly, Edwin Parker, is being shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until 25 September 2011. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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