Stanislaw Frenkiel Fine Art

The Sheet Stains of Francis Bacon (1967)

The 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. .

Bacon paints what others don’t dare dream; private fantasies which betray perversity.

So 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.

Every age has its victims and its horrors. Bacon shows the horrors of our century. The alienation of the individual in the crowded city.

Among 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.

His art stands quite alone although it is related to surrealism in terms of threat or imaginings and in its theme of love and death.

Bacon 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.

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.

With 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.

Today imagines manent – images last. One can drive a fragment of a second into memory and make it eternal.

Who 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 details.

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.