The Sheet Stains of Francis Bacon (1967)
current exhibition of Francis Bacon at the Marlborough art gallery
in London forces one to declare for or against the unusual work
of this artist who has appeared, unexpectedly in the forefront
of art in England.
Having ignored the prescriptions of “mecanomorphic”
painting, reactionary academics and geometric art his work feeds
the imagination with a new iconography which, while taking one’s
breath away with disgust, imprisons the gaze. .
paints what others don’t dare dream; private fantasies which
what? Romanticism established the principle that every passion
is suitable for art. People may disapprove of Bacon’s sheet
stains just as they disapproved of Bosch and Goya but our times
are little better than those of the religious wars in Europe or
insurrection in Spain.
age has its victims and its horrors. Bacon shows the horrors of
our century. The alienation of the individual in the crowded city.
middle aged artists – mostly given to abstraction –
Bacon stands out as a maverick painter, showing the importance
of the human in contemporary art. And yet this flows from no humanist
ideology, classical study or particular school of art.
art stands quite alone although it is related to surrealism in
terms of threat or imaginings and in its theme of love and death.
is, of-course, an expressionist. His paintings are built on the
expression of form, which he subjects to violent blows. Until
now expressionist art has suffered from archaic laments, of being
pseudo-classical, pseudo-gothic and pseudo-barbaric. None of which
apply to Bacon.
is completely contemporary; his inspiration comes from press photographs,
film, and the vulgarisms of the mass media; the appalling indecency
of the reporter in the Death of Lee Harvey Oswald.
the help of a machine the human eye can now see sharply what in
the past could only be glimpsed an image which was censored in
memory and idealised in recall.
imagines manent – images last. One can drive a fragment
of a second into memory and make it eternal.
will forget the piles of bodies of Katyn or Treblinka? Who will
forget the prisoners of the camps, in the remnants of their own
skin? Without bellies or buttocks? There are photographs, film
tapes which can recreate past sights edit the images and distinguish
Photography has become not just an aid for the memory but has
changed into a cognitive instrument. It has become a plastic surgeon,
good both for lies and the beautification of history.