Far from being an artist who settled into a signature image and repeats it to death, Twombly seems to have an uncanny ability to take whatever thing he is interested in at the moment, and enlarge its essence to create new and astonishing bursts of painterly effulgence. Each new theme is infused with a combination of childlike fascination and energetic grandeur, ratcheted to a hallucinatory intensity. A perfect example is the magnificent Lepanto cycle from 2001 -- a painting in 12 parts, each panel being roughly 7ft x 10ft -- it can only be described as epic in its scope. But what is most remarkable to me is that the 73 year old artist was able to muster and sustain a level of extraordinary physicality, and a consistently precarious balance between control and chance, rawness and elegance. It's a masterful work.
I wasn't fortunate enough to see the Tate show, but I did see the MoMA retrospective in '94, and I've seen a good lot of Twombly's work from all periods first hand over the years. I've also read a lot of what's been written about him, and must say I do agree with Collings on that count -- the criticism is mostly irrelevant or at least peripheral to any real experience of the work itself. I have quite a number of large books on Twombly, and I'll probably buy the Tate book too --- certainly not for the essays, but to have access to more images of his work -- to be able to return to them again and again -- to study their idiosyncracies, to be energized by their distinctive sensuality, their openness, their implications, their poetry.