Thoughts on: Francis Bacon

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1979-80

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1979-80

This evening, I watched a 1985 edition of The South Bank Show featuring Francis Bacon, who was due to have a retrospective at the Tate that year.  As I watched, I was aware of noticing details in a slightly different way than I might have done prior to starting this course.  I still feel on shaky ground writing in a formal critical way, but I did note these observations, made by Bacon himself:

– his work was “a concentration of reality”.  He emphasised that he had no interest in illustrating life in a realistic fashion, but that reality was still at the core of all his work.

– he wasn’t attempting to tell a story with his pictures.  He said he had no story to tell. Rather, he focused on form and movement as subjects in themselves.

– Bacon believed that all art… all life… was a matter of sensation.  Therefore, he was concerned with creating a “visual shock”.  He chose to do this, in part, by retaining the immediacy of his mark making, striving to imbue even the final marks with the energy of the first mark on the canvas.

On a personal level, I found his work powerful and intriguing.  I’m interested in his treatment of ‘reality’, the ways in which he both embraced and distorted it.  His art isn’t something with which I would want to live, but I could learn from his style of controlled chaos.  He worked quickly, which I don’t at all, so part of the lesson lies there, perhaps.

The programme is available to watch on Youtube.  The first part can be found here (the remaining sections are linked from each successive video page):