Painted Bacon

Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery of NSW

I was in the zone. That magic moment when you are deep within the work in front of you. I hadn’t expected that of Bacon.  The Art Gallery of New South Wales luckily could fit the letters of his name nicely between the columns and I like that drama of a new exhibition. I love the crossing directly in front of the gallery and when I stepped out alone, no cars, no crowds and mounted the stairs I had that inkling it was to be wonderful.

Francis Bacon Study of Human Figure after Muybridge

Study from the Human Body after Muybridge 1988 Francis Bacon

I had done my homework: read a little, been to an Anthony Bond (director of International art  AGNSW) talk weeks before, downloaded an app and was ready to take what Francis Bacon could dish up.  Like Bacon when I first saw Muybridge’s work I felt compelled to work from his studies of the human form so going in, I wanted to see  that connection.

I had just been to the APT7 in Brisbane and coming down from that artphoria and I wasn’t prepared to be scooped up once more. This time it was good old-fashioned use of paint and there was something Fred Williams-like in large flat expanses of pure thin colour and small slashes of sculptured coloured marks, in Bacon’s case fleshy pinks and whitish greys. His influence on Whiteley was blindingly obvious and I too became absorbed. I felt his fascination with Muybridge and Russian film the The Battleship Potemkin. But it was in Triptych 1987 where his intense brilliant orange ground captured the intensity of Frederico Lorca’s words in “Lament for Ignazio Sanchez Mejias” a matador’s death that gave a clue to depth and passion of his work.

When the bull ring was covered with iodine at five in the afternoon

Death laid eggs in the wound at five in the afternoon

Francis Bacon Dog

Untitled (dog) c1967 Francis Bacon

A great exhibition and one that I have definitely learnt from.  I feel the need to re-visit some of my earlier works on Muybridge and perhaps begin to introduce colour and scale and move on from the smaller studies of individual plates.

Plate 13 from Muybridge Studies

Plate 13 from Muybridge Studies


6 thoughts on “Painted Bacon

  1. yes i love Francis Bacon too. bought a big glossy book about him when i was still in art school. i had lived in a rural area and had seen a lot of death there and really related to the way in which Bacon seemed to relish the physicality of the human form, teh as you say [of the paint rather than the form itslef] sculptural qualities, teh bone scaffold and the opulence of the curved forms of flesh. also related very much to the horror/mortality terror he seemed tome to painting in, and something about the way all his forms seem to loop back on themselves and/or be crushed into confining spaces [tho maybe the drawn cube he put in so often was as much about a convenient way to frame teh subject so that it would appear to float in space at the same time as being anchored to point] reminded me of certain fever deleriums i experienced as a child in which altered proprioceptive senses were coupled with claustrophobic terror. and teh sheer bravura or the brush strokes totally seduced me, as it did also with whitely.
    what i wasn’t prepared for was the absolute austerity of Bacon’s images in teh raw. i can’t remember where i saw it, but teh picture had been painted as if with steel wool and an almost comletely exhausted paint supply. dry brush dominated the canvas, scumbled laboriously in industrial tones. i realised what i was up against. this was hard core. the sensuality that glossy book pages always gave teh works was not there at all. remaining was only disfigurement and a much greater dynamism. it occurs to me now that i consider his interest in muybridge, how much about movement bacon’s pictures were. like those bugs bunny cartoons in which a fight between two characters is depicted as a blur/cloud of dust with miscellaneous debri issuing from it in all directions.
    anyway thta’s all apropos of nothing in particular. i can see how you like the formal qualities in his work. thanks for sharing. pls excuse typos. headache making it hard to look at screen

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