Francis Bacon’s Paint






                                                                                                                                                                     Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963







“I really do like paint to be very fresh.”

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“Half my painting activity is disrupting what I can do with ease.”

Francis Bacon,  Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“I just paint. I paint out of instinct. That’s all. If I stop to wonder why I paint, I say I paint out of instinct.”

Francis Bacon, Bacon’s Instinct, David Plante, The New Yorker, November 1, 1993




“Enigma is the pure gushing out of what gushes out / Profundity that shakes everything, the coming of the day.”

Maurice Balnchot, The Work of Fire, Editions Gallimard: 1949




“Accident takes the form of semen-like white paint that Bacon claimed to fling out of the tube at some of his canvases.”

 John Richardson, Bacon Agonistes, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 20 · December 17, 2009




“There are some, such as Jet of Water, 1988, showing water in violent movement and readable as metaphors for ejaculation.”

David Sylvester, Figuabile:  Francis Bacon, Electa, Museo Correr, Venice, 1993




“When the paint itself breaks loose into a flowing white emanation, streaming away across the canvas, it is the intimation of a direction.”

Lawrence Gowing,  Francis Bacon: The Irrefutable Image, Francis Bacon Recent Paintings, Marlborough-Gerson, New York: 1968




“But in trying to do a portrait, my ideal would really be just to pick up a handful of paint and throw it at the canvas and hope that the portrait was there.”

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“The paint has a dreadful materiality, as though the grainy cellular structure of the pigment, swiped with a loaded brush across the canvas, were a smear of tissue.”

Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New, 1991




“I don’t think there are two different realisms … I think realism incorporates the subjective and the objective … No, I don’t for a moment think there are two realities.”

Francis Bacon, Unpublished Interview with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1984




“I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events, as the snail leaves its slime.”  

Francis Bacon, The New Decade: 22 European Painters, Museum of Modern Art, 1955




“You’ve got marvellous teeth, Geraldine. There are a thousand different cries and I’ve done them all. I want to paint a smile. A seductive smile. It isn’t a question of size, it’s a question of resonance.”

Francis Bacon; Geraldine Norman, Signature tune, The Times Saturday Review, 9 July 1977




“I really do like paint to be very fresh. I like, you may say, the glitter and colour that comes from the mouth, and Ive always hoped in a sense to be able to paint the mouth like Monet painted a sunset.”

Francis Bacon, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson, 1987




“Bacon could become entranced by all kinds of odd marks. I remember when we wee sitting at the Coupole in Paris, he suddenly became fixated by the shape a pool of spilt milk had made on the table.”

Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Westview Press, 1996




“To Francis Bacons private view – only six canvases, three being of popes in purple robes, shouting, declaiming or simply glaring, each from within a shadowy glass box. No one can deny his impressiveness.”

Frances Partridge, December 11th, 1951; Diaries 1939-1972, Phoenix Press: 2001




“I can only hope that the throwing of the paint onto the already-made image or half-image will either re-form the image or that I will be able to manipulate this paint further into – anyway, for me – a greater intensity.”

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“Van Gogh got very near to the violence of life itself. Its true to say that when he painted a field he was able to give you the violence of grass. Think of the violence of the grass he painted. It’s one of the most violent and abominable things, if you really want to think about life.”

Francis Bacon; The Legacy of Genius: Van Gogh and Francis Bacon; Francis Bacon – Studies for a Portrait, Michael Peppiatt, Yale University Press: 2008




“The clotted, grainy paint dragged over the unprimed canvas sets up a visual discomfort similar to the scrap of fingernails on fabric, so that the nerves are immediately altered to something unusual, something sinisterly unpleasant, before the image has spelt itself out in the brain.”

Michael Peppiatt, Head 1, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Westview Press: 1996




“Bacon is a virtuoso manipulator of paint, and he pointed with particular pride to the picture where the image of water splashing wildly from a tap was surrounded by large expanses of bare canvas. He liked the fact that its pristine surface was undisturbed by even the tiniest smudge of pigment.”

Richard Cork, Virtuoso manipulator of paint, The Listener, 15 November 1984




“As a figurative painter, Bacon had the cunning of a Fragonard. (The comparison would have amused him, and both were accomplished painters of physical sensation – one of pleasure and the other of pain.) Bacon's cunning has understandably intrigued and challenged at least two generations of painters.”

John Berger, Prophet of a pitiless world, The Guardian, Saturday 21 May, 2004




“Bacon paints superbly. No dabber hand wields a paint brush today. Thick and thin, stained through from the back, swept on, shot on from the front like spittle or semen, as large, glowing fields of one colour or (Russell’s phrase) as the jewelled slime of paint — perhaps he will have been the last great user of oil paint.”

Norbert Lynton, Victims of paint, The Guardian, Thursday, November 11, 1971




“One could say the ejaculatory blurt of white paint in a painting like Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1968, is chancy, but that kind of chance is easily manipulated with practice, and it rhymes suspiciously well with other curves in the painting (like the back of the chair in the picture within a picture to the left).”

Robert Hughes, Singing Within The Bloody WoodTime Magazine,  7 July, 1985




“I remember Bacon becoming transfixed, for instance, by a puddle of milk on a café table; he lifted his finger, as if to draw in it, then rather reluctantly abstained – the chance shape of that puddle of milk – also left their traces. And from this extraordinary commingling all Bacon’s images were born.”

Michael Peppiatt, Bacon’s Eyes; Francis Bacon - Studies for a Portrait, Yale University Press: 2008




“I remember having a coffee with him at La Coupole in Paris once and there was some milk spilt on the table and then suddenly, he couldn’t stop himself, one of these thick fingers came out and he started to sort of trace; it was a marvellous moment because it was a bit like a child who sort of sees something and does something with it.”

Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon - Untitled (Pope), Sotheby’s: 23 October, 2012




“With Bacon the play of paint is for real. One imagines his special watchfulness as it throws up unthinkable kinds of resemblance. Time and again he is drawn into a fearful game of chicken — to stay with the paint at the perilous onset of likeness. It is played with the only stakes that are big enough to make it most exciting, the indisputable equivalence of paint as flesh.”

Lawrence Gowing,  Francis Bacon: The Irrefutable Image, Francis Bacon Recent Paintings, Marlborough-Gerson, New York: 1968




Lets make clear, as it were, whos on the couch and who’s behind the couch in ones relation to the painting. It is vital to recognize that it is not we qua analyst who are there to analyse the painting if my argument is going to be sustained it is to the function of the painting to analyse us. You might say: how can a painting speak? Well actually of course, its almost true that a real analyst cant speak. We are its patient. It is there to interpret us.

Mark Cousins, The Analyst, Architectural Association, Lecture, 1 February, 2002




When one talks about paintings, its all nonsense. It has its language and anything else is a bad translation. I do feel the need to paint. I paint for the excitement which comes when the image comes across but I also hope luck will work with me in paint. I have always painted to excite myself. For me images are ways of unlocking the valves of sensation. It is when you stop fumbling around and the images crystallises or when you realise you can take it further.

Francis Bacon, Bacon’s art gets the red-carpet treatment, The Sunday Times, 25th September 1988




“The greatest things in movies are divine accidents. Sometimes I’ve had those accidents. I made a picture, where I reached through a window in Touch of Evil, and found an egg, in a pigeon’s nest. We made a whole scene about it, so you can do those kinds of thing and then control them. But I want to go further.”

Orson Welles, Interview, Albert and David Maysles, Madrid, June 1966




“But in the dialectic between sensations of reality and the making of a picture, what mattered most in the picture was paint, the inherent eloquence of paint, paint handled so that it 'comes across directly onto the nervous system. Manipulation of paint became an inexhaustible gamble, involving all sorts of exploration and chance.” 

David Sylvester, Bacon’s CourseFigurabile: Francis Bacon, Electa, Museo Correr, Venice, 1993




“With Bacon the play of paint is for real. One imagines his special watchfulness as it throws up unthinkable kinds of resemblance. Time and again he is drawn into a fearful game of chicken — to stay with the paint at the perilous onset of likeness. It is played with the only stakes that are big enough to make it most exciting, the indisputable equivalence of paint as flesh.”

Lawrence Gowing, The Irrefutable Image; Francis Bacon Recent Paintings, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York, NY: 1968




Bacon’s picture, as usual, is in lamp-black monochrome, the zinc white of the monster’s eyes glittering in the cold crumbling grey of the face. Bacon is a Grand Guignol artist: the mouths in his heads are unpleasant places, evil passions make a glittering white mess of the lips. There are, after all, more things in heaven and earth than shiny horses or juicy satins. There are the fleurs du mal for instance.”

Wyndham Lewis, The Listener, 12 May 1949




“With oil paint being so fluid, the image is changing al the time while you’re working. One thing either builds on another or destroys the other. You see, I don’t think that generally people really understand how mysterious, in a way, the actual manipulation of oil paint is. Because moving  even unconsciously moving – the brush one way rather than the other will completely alter the implications of the image.”

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love. It can be as violent as fucking, like an orgasm or an ejaculation. The result is often disappointing but the process is highly exciting.”

Francis Bacon, Exclusive interview with Francis Bacon, Francis Giacobetti, 1991-2, The Art Newspaper, June 2003




“There Dyer’s body congeals into his cross-legged thighs as he squats on a curving sofa looking both ways like Janus, and a tasselled cord hangs into the cage of isolation that surrounds him. A spurt of white paint that may be spent semen gushes from the buttocks of a shape kneeling in the worship of the flesh before him beside an empty folding chair with a red seat, and a lying dog is the voyeur, pointing his muzzle towards his master.”

Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon — His Life & Violent Times, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1993



“To the point, in fact, at which the face as we know it would disappear altogether in the jewelled slime of the paint, leaving behind it an eye socket, or the deep cave of a nostril, or an irreducible patch of hair, as tokens that somewhere among the strong-willed chromatic smearing a named individual was commemorated. No questions, here, of setting the scene: we are at a dentist’s distance from eyes, nose, mouth and teeth, and the rest of the world is blocked out.”

John Russell, Francis Bacon: His Life & Violent Times, Andrew Sinclair, Crown Publishers Inc: 1993




“What has never yet been analyzed is why this particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration. I suppose because it has a life completely of its own. It lives on its own, like the image one’s trying to trap; it lives on its own, and therefore transfers the essence of the image over more poignantly. Its a very, very close and difficult thing to know why some paint comes across directly onto the nervous system and other paint tells you the story in a long diatribe through the brain.”

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“We will never understand the face – it will be a persistent site of enigma. The face is a kind of mess and we do not know what it is. You cannot work it out. Something about the face speaks of its fundamental indecision. Its not knowing who it is, its not knowing who to be. The problem of the face when is becomes a model for something else it produces a vaporous enigma over things. The face cannot be a stereotype for something. The face is the disruption of the stereotype, the stereoytypical.”

Mark Cousins, The Face and the Façade, Architectural Association Lecture Hall, Friday 16th February, 2018




I first met Bacon in 1950, when John Minton took me to see him in his studio in South Kensington. When we walked into the room, I beheld a sight that is still vivid in mind. Bacon was at the top of a stepladder doing a spot of home decoration He was splashing the ceiling with quantities of white paint in a slapdash way. It transpired that he was dressed for work in a brand-new Saville Row suit and he looked, of course, as though someone had thrown a bucket of the paint over him. He couldn’t care less.

Jeffrey Bernard, A painter who coloured my days, Sunday Independent, 17 November, 1996




“If you have a master plan for what you are going to do, exactly where the camera’s going to be, exactly what the scene is supposed to state; if you’re locked into that, you are depriving yourself of the divine accidents of movie-making, because everywhere there are beautiful accidents. There is a smell in the air, there’s a look that changes the whole resonance of what you expected. And then there are the true accidents, and my definition of a film director is the man who presides over accidents – but doesnt make them.”

Orson Welles, Filming Othello, 1978 




“This is arguably Bacon’s most impressive exhibition. The painting itself is resourceful and varied without ever descending to flashiness or mere bravura display. Tightly disciplined, it thrusts incessantly into a separate celebration: harsh, abrasive, squelchy or glittering, despite its essential interdependence with the form. Perhaps the banal handling of paint describing a hypodermic syringe in his last show was deliberate: if Callas can make an ugly sound for solid dramatic reasons Bacon can do the equivalent with pigment.”

Bryan Robertson, Behind the Pulpit, The Spectator, Friday, 13 August, 1965




“In doing that which I wanted to do, I have done so many things I did not want. The act has not been pure, for I left some traces. In wiping out these traces, I have left others. When the awkwardness of the act turns against the goal pursued, we are at the height of tragedy. Laius, in order to thwart the deadly predictions, will undertake precisely what is necessary for them to be fulfilled. In succeeding, Oedipus contributes to his own unhappiness like the prey that flees the noise of the hunter across a field covered in snow, thereby leaving the very traces that will be its ruin.”

Emmanuel Levinas, Is Ontology Fundamental?, Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale: January-March 1951




It is how the paint is smeared across the features of the face. The smearing  means disintegration: the face is already food for worms, the skull seen now beneath the skin. The smearing means destruction: the face is wounded, shattered. The smearing means obliteration. The smearing means all this, but what these meanings involve conveys itself before there has been time to become aware of meanings. The meanings, all of them, lie in the paint, and they are in the paint not latently but in the impact of the paint upon our senses, on our nerves. Nothing in these paintings is more eloquent than the paint itself.

David Sylvester, Francis Bacon: The Human Body, Hayward Gallery, 1998




“The encrusted surface of the face, sand and wisps of wool almost imperceptibly mingled with the pigment, and the dark grey area behind which has the appearance of charred wood, reveal that concern with texture which with Bacon has never become a complete obsession. Always there are the long purposeful strokes, sometimes a harmony of grey glittering with the white of a parched brush, like the sword-hilt against the cloak in Velasquez’s “Philip IV.”  One cannot name a British painter to-day with a greater technical command, or one who conveys a like impression of tacking each great tense work as if it were his last.”

Nevile Wallis, Francis Bacon, At the Galleries, The Observer, December 23, 1951




“Bacon has repeatedly said that he is not an ‘expressionist’; it is easy to show what he means by this by contrasting his work with that of the currently fashionable, but lesser, painter George Baselitz (at the Whitechapel Gallery) – who is. Baselitz deals with a similar subject matter; but he invariably handles paint in an ‘abstract expressionist’ manner; i.e. in a way which refers not so much to his subjects as to his own activity and sentiments as an artist. Anatomy, physiognomy, gesture and the composition of an architectural illusion of space mean nothing to him: to Bacon, they are everything. Or rather almost everything.”

Peter Fuller, Raw Bacon, 1983




“Bacon’s object in the last fifteen years has been to find more and more new valves to open. Once they are opened, and the feeling floods out, we find it is not al all what we had expected it to be... But it is here that the paint takes over. The paint will not allow the picture to be treated as magazine-illustration gone berserk. There is a difference, as Bacon has said, between paint which comes across directly on to the nervous system’ and paint which 'tells you the story in a long diatribe through the brain’. Society tries to transfer Bacon’s less palatable pictures to the brain, but the paint insists on speaking directly to the nerves.”

John Russell, Francis Bacon, Art In Progress, Methuen, London 1964





“What Bacon accomplishes is a linkage of the power of the painterly process to the power of social authority. The painterliness that gives hysterical flair to the person also mutilates that being into oblivion, generalizing it toward nonbeing. That something can be so real and at the next moment an illusion belonging to the past expresses the ambivalence endemic in archaeologism. All Bacon’s figures exist in a time warp, at once radically contemporary yet belonging to a dead world. Bacon’s hysterical painting is paradoxical, and never more so than when it gives authority to inherently unauthoritative, almost banal figures.”

Donald Kuspit, Hysterical PaintingArt Forum, January, 1986





“The thing is one can’t really talk about painting, only around it. After all if you could explain it why would you bother to do it? You always hope that the paint will do more for you, but mostly it's like painting a wall when the very first brushstroke you do gives a sudden shock of reality that is cancelled out as you paint the whole surface. What one longs to do above all, I think, is to reinvent appearance, make it stranger, and more exciting. What one wants in art nowadays is a shorthand where the sensation comes across right away. All painting, well all art, is about sensation. Or at least it should be. After all, life itself is about sensation.

Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon – In Your Blood – A Memoir, Michael Peppiatt, Bloomsbury Circus: 2015




“A seated self-portrait on the right is loosely mirrored in a seated portrait at the left showing his lover, George Dyer, who had committed suicide barely 10 months before. In the triptych’s centre, the spot where a traditional religious painting would put the Virgin Mary or a crucified Christ, a blob of two entwined figures grapples in a macabre dance of sex and death. Before 1969, homosexual coupling was criminal under British law. The slick, carefully contrived elegance of Bacon’s paint handling is regularly interrupted by oozing discharges of colour. There is no narrative here, only direct visual sensation connected to visceral experience.”

Christopher Knight, 'London Calling' at the Getty and the tension between abstract and figurative painting, The Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2016




“The shudder released by the work of art, the experience of the modernist sublime, is the memory of the experience of terror and strangeness in the face of threatening nature. Shudder is the memorial experience of nature’s transcendence, its non-identity and sublimity, at one remove. Shudder is a memory, an afterimage, ‘of what is to be preserved. Shudder is the address of the other; it corresponds to what Gadamer would identify as strangeness in the object of understanding, and what Heidegger thinks of in terms of the claim of being. Above all, shudder is the terror of the sublime in Kant, a terror made safe by the retraction of the object at its source.”

J. M. Bernstein, The Fate of Art: Aesthetic Alienation from Kant to Derrida and Adorno, Polity Press, 1992




“Of the younger painters none actually paints so beautifully as Francis Bacon. I have seen painting of his that reminded me of Velázquez and like that master he is fond of blacks. Liquid whitish accents are delicately dropped upon the stable ground, like blobs of mucus – or else there is the cold white glitter of an eyeball, or an eye distended with despairing insult behind a shouting mouth, distended also to hurl insults. Otherwise it is a baleful regard from the mask of a decayed clubman or business executive – so decayed that usually part of the head is rotting away into space. But black is his pictorial element. These faces come out of the blackness to glare or to shout.”

Wyndham Lewis, Round the London Art Galleries; The Listener, 12 May 1949




Nothing in these paintings is more eloquent than the paint itself. Paint that brings flesh into being and at the same time dissolves it. Paint whose fluidity conveys the fluidity of all it conveys. And the vast empty spaces are like the silences of a great actor. The paint is put on calmly, without violence or frenzy, for all the speed and spontaneity of execution. When Bacon is painting, his most characteristic gesture with the brush is a flick of the wrist made at arm’s length. Clearly he wants to distance himself from what he is painting, not to violate it. He detaches himself from his subject, declines to say where his sympathies lie, to impose his comment on the world he is making, and unmaking.

David Sylvester, In Camera, Encounter, April 1957




“A vibrant and deeply compelling new exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo shows that Bacon’s art blends equal quantities of savagery and grace, roughness and refinement. His brushwork, rich and fleshy with heavy dollops and smears of pigment, closely approximates the greasy sheen of light on human skin. His palette, which ranges from the baize green of the billiard tables and gambling casinos Bacon loved to the lurid reds and pinks of raw meat, shocks the eye to attention. Amid the repulsion, there are the strong attractions of exquisite brushwork, sombre and luminous colour, and a sense that the artist is revealing impulses and appetites normally kept under wraps.

Steven Litt, Raw emotion, searing insight of a major talent, The Plain Dealer, Ohio, Sunday, June 03, 2007




“Bacon opposed American Abstract Expressionism, scorning Jackson Pollock’s manner as “old lace” and Mark Rothko’s as “rather dismal variations on colour.” In fact, it is Bacon, rather than the Abstract Expressionists, who now looks prophetic about subsequent developments in art, starting with Pop and continuing through the so-called Pictures Generation. With a Pollock or a Rothko, you either feel about painting or have nothing to engage you. But I find myself persuaded that Bacon did identify with the visceral sorcery of paint—though he wouldn’t maintain it across any whole canvas—and that he wanted us to perceive that fact, even as he perversely threw melodramatic scenarios in the way.

Peter Schjeldahl, Rough Stuff—A Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met., The New Yorker, June 1st, 2009




“Perhaps the greatest problem confronting the Trustees is to know which of our younger painters to represent. Purchases out of the Tate’s own pocket are an odd assortment, but then perhaps there has been little enough for the Trustees to choose from. As far as painting goes, they have been content with only one large work—another Francis Bacon, ‘Figure in a Landscape’.  I do not count this macabre piece among Bacon’s most successful efforts. It lacks spontaneity and the paint has died, rather as if the work did not come right the first time, nor even the second. Still I think that Bacon is more interesting than most of his generation. He has a conception and, what is rarer in an English artist, a personality.”

John Richardson, What is New at the Tate Gallery?, The Listener, August 31, 1950




“Bacon opposed American Abstract Expressionism, scorning Jackson Pollock’s manner as “old lace” and Mark Rothko’s as “rather dismal variations on colour.” In fact, it is Bacon, rather than the Abstract Expressionists, who now looks prophetic about subsequent developments in art, starting with Pop and continuing through the so-called Pictures Generation. With a Pollock or a Rothko, you either feel about painting or have nothing to engage you. But I find myself persuaded that Bacon did identify with the visceral sorcery of paint—though he wouldn’t maintain it across any whole canvas—and that he wanted us to perceive that fact, even as he perversely threw melodramatic scenarios in the way.

Peter Schjeldahl, Rough Stuff—A Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met., The New Yorker, June 1st, 2009




“But that an accident as such, detached from what circumscribes it, what is bound and is actual only in its context with others, should attain an existence of its own and a separate freedom – this is the tremendous  power [Macht] of the negative. Spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power [Zauberkraft] that converts it into being. This power is identical with what we earlier called the Subject [i.e., Geist], which by giving determinateness an existence in its own element superseded abstract immediacy, and thus is authentic substance: that being or immediacy whose mediation is not outside of it but which is mediation itself.”

G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807




“I like the down and dirty side of things. I don’t like things to be too polished. We’ve got fashion magazines for that. I paint flesh because I’m human. If you work in oil, as I do, it comes naturally. Flesh is just the most beautiful thing to paint. It’s become really difficult to do figurative painting that isn’t naff or cheesy and which feels relevant. I’ve found a way of doing it by looking at abstract painters like Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly. I like looking at very old figurative painting, at the old masters. But when it comes to the art of our time, I prefer to look at abstract painting. It’s taught me a lot about the physical act of painting, about pace and tempo, using drips and marks in ways that aren’t just decorative.

Jenny Saville, Interview with Mark Hudson, Art Features, The Daily Telegraph, 24th June, 2014




“My painting isn’t about expression, it’s about instinct. I don’t express. I try to remake the image of reality that is in my mind. To create realism without falling into illustration you have to invent a technique. Painters attempt from generation to generation to find ways of returning an image onto the nervous system. One by one, the techniques of the past wear out. Yet one still wants to paint the same things — a body or a face. So you have to reinvent technique in order to find a new way of conveying something, such as a chair, onto the nervous system... All the painters who interest me have succeeded in doing this, and particularly Van Gogh, who did it in such an extraordinary way — a very simple but also a very mysterious way.

Francis Bacon, L’Express, 15-21 November, 1971




“The will to express sensation ends in transference, Bacon seemingly inhabiting the subject of his interest. It is well illustrated by Study for Bullfight No. 1 (1969) and the second version of the same picture. In the first Bullfight the crowd is visible and the matador has a face. The artistic viewpoint is that of a spectator and the picture accordingly verges on illustration. In the ‘improved’ version the crowd is virtually blanked out and the matador becomes no more than a shadowy presence. Greater emphasis is placed on the flung gobs of white paint. This is the bullfight from the point of view of the bull: blind, maddened, sapped of strength by the heat and spinning cape. Such transference is even more visible in his portraits.

John McEwen, Francis Bacon — New transmutations of an autumn rose, Studio International, Volume 198, Number 1010, 1985




One of the central themes of painting since the Post-Impressionists has been how to treat the picture plane as a totally integrated surface. Bacon was too shrewd not to realise this, but though he taught himself to handle pigment well enough for Lawrence Gowing to compare his painting of human flesh to Renoir’s, his attempts to solve the problem how to treat the canvas beyond the central image were peremptory and unconvincing. Worse, his grasp of anatomy was uncertain, so his broad smears of paint and swipes of the brush are at heart dishonest painting and the sweeping curves that too often describe the outline of his figures are a cop-out from the real difficulties. He had come from nowhere and achieved success too suddenly.

Michael McNay, Pigment at its limits, Books, The Guardian, Thursday, November 14, 1996




“Bacon’s descriptions of his own work, as trying to capture the brutality of fact’, or as going straight to the nervous system, are a clear statement of what he’s after. Right from the first, Bacon tended to ratchet up the melodrama. Although influenced by cinematic imagery and montage (most famously the screaming nurse in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin), he was an explicitly theatrical painter, placing his actors centre-stage against plain backdrops, augmenting the action with a few strategic props: light bulb, chair, bed, toilet bowl, washbasin. But the heads and bodies are often violently disassembled, their flesh hideously contorted. Painted equivalents of bodily fluids – blood, spittle, semen, vomit – swirl about the canvases.

Aidan Dunne, The horror of the ordinary; The Irish Times, Friday, September 19, 2008




“I think it’s very important to maintain belief but to still realize that you’re on quicksand or your feet are clay. I always have this fantasy if I look down I’ll see hoofs and they’ll be a studio full of goat shit. So in one sense I want to be super-human but in another sense I feel I’m barely an animal; and it’s a practice that I think if I don’t always maintain, juggle, both of these kinds of reality I could then very easily be done in by the very kind of reparation that I use to make myself and that I hope will help the rest of the world become a better place. I want to become a better place not a person; I want to become a better place because as a person I’m going to be gone I don’t know in ten minutes or ten years. But I want to become a better place.

Robert Natkin, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, BBC: 1979




“Francis Bacon was conscious that he had lived all the distorted years of the ’thirties. But the violence of life was very different from the violence in painting. When talking abut the violence of paint, it’s nothing to do with the violence of war.’ It had to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself'. He wanted the help of accident and chance in his paintings – by the use of drips and slips of the brush; by wiping with rags or by throwing on paint or sand or dust for texture; by adding circles and blots, arrows or whiplashes of white paint; by inserting the incongruous object or throwaway detail that marked the arbitrary and haphazard nature of modern living. To him, the production of that very great work depended on the chance of the paint.

Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon — His Life & Violent Times, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1993




“In Bacon’s new painting there Is a complex mingling of contraries. They include, in order (“We have to battle for order,” he lately said) and disorder; accident and design; science and instinct; dignity and indignity; waking and the dream. Bacon today can do what he likes with paint. He can make the naked human body gleam and glow; he can make a doorknob or an unshaded light bulb into an object of wonder; and he can paint the human eye in such a way that we reconsider the whole relationship of watcher and watched. All this comes second, one may say, to the beauty of the paint, which grows more startling year by year. But that beauty is not gratuitous. It is the servant of impulse, not the master; and nothing quite like it has been seen before.

John Russell, Art of a New Francis Bacon Is at Met, The New York Times, Thursday, March 20, 1975




“Bacon’s contrived accidents – squeezing paint into his hand and throwing it at the canvas, the use of sponges, the rubbing in of studio dust and so on – allow him to pursue an alternative practice of painting  to that of representation. They permit the possibility not so much of the transformation of his figures, but of their deformation. It is the image in all its materiality that throws out this darkness, that marks itself by darkness... What oozes out is the lamella, the organ of the drive... I am saying that it is the lamella that is the outcome of Bacon’s efforts to avoid narrative and representation and to act directly on the nervous system. Bacon’s ‘matter of fact’ turns out to be the lamella. And I mean you to take this quite literally. What is at stake is not violence but paint.

Parveen Adams, The violence of paint; The Emptiness of the Image, Routledge: 1996




“His work impressed me, his personality affected me. It was through that and talking to him a lot. He talked a great deal about the paint itself carrying the form, and imbuing the paint with this sort of life. He talked about packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke, which amused and excited me, and I realised that it was a million miles away from anything I could ever do. The idea of paint having that power was something which made me feel I ought to get to know it in a different way that wasn’t subservient. I mean, I used to make it always do the same things for me: I felt I’d got a method which was acceptable and that I was getting approval for something which wasn’t of great account. Though I’m not very introspective I think that all this had an emotional basis.

Lucian Freud, The artist out of his cage, The Observer Review, The Observer, Sunday 6 December 1992




“But the modernist Bacon was, incidentally, the last to deny the greatness of certain old masters, though he always spoke of them in painterly terms. Neither was he one of those painters who affect to believe that their art cannot be talked about and that other people (and writers particularly) cannot understand it. He came into the French pub in Dean Street one forenoon, fresh from a morning’s work and, as usual, entirely free of hangover, and told me he had just that morning discovered the secret’ of painting. A cautious Irishman, ready at all stages for temporising smalltalk, I was astonished at the directness and sincerity with which this information was imparted, but at this distance of time I cannot, alas, say in so many words what the secret was, only that it had something to do with Frans Hals and his way of painting lace.

Anthony Cronin, Life worksThe Sunday Times, 28 May, 2000



“Sheer omnipresence of paint is what impresses most as one enters this highly fraught space. Coloured marks – accidental splats, brush wipes, trial runs of one hue against another – rainbow or cascade over the walls, turning them into giant palettes. Another pattern of chance blobs and trickles extends in an intricately coloured net over the book and photo-strewn floor. Sticky masses of half-spent tubes, thickets of coagulated brushes rear up on all sides, amid old plates and pans to mix colour, rollers, rags, tins, and jars of every description. An old passport or a single, shinning shoe occasionally heaves into sight like a drowning man, and is lost. beyond all the innovative transformations of space and the bravura handling of paint, Bacon deals with essentials only. The human fact is caught between pitilessly bright pigment and the shadow of its own mortality.

Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: The Studio as a Symbol, Connoisseur, September, 1984




“I would loathe my paintings to look like chancy abstract expressionist paintings, because I really like highly disciplined painting, although I don’t use highly disciplined methods of contracting it. I think the only thing is that my paint looks immediate. Perhaps it’s vanity to say that, but at least I sometimes think, in the better things, the paint has an immediacy, although I don’t think it looks like thrown about paint. But paint is so malleable that you never do really know. It’s such an extraordinary supple medium that you never do quite know what the paint will do. You see I want the paintings to come about so that they look as though the marks had a sort of inevitability about them. And yet, what so-called chance gives you is quite different from what willed application of paint gives you. It has an inevitability very often which willed putting-on of the paint doesn’t give you.

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1975




“Bacon learned by getting up close to paintings and observing their surfaces. He looked at how paint behaved both as a substance and as a visual surrogate for all the textures there are in the world: for cloth, grass, fur, porcelain, skin. And in Bacon’s case, one might say: for chrome, mattress ticking, vomit, meat. Bacon not only borrowed from, but added to, the vocabulary of painting. He also tainted it, and made certain ways of approaching painting untouchable. Bacon’s art also contains an entire repertoire of bruises, wounds, amputations done up with soiled bandages, Nazi armbands and other paraphernalia verging on cliché. There is much blood, and a great deal of alizarin crimson. Unconvincing jets of water struggle to clean all the muck away, though the flying spunk clings on like ectoplasm, unless it’s just a spatter of white paint that has fallen off a passing Miró.

Adrian Searle, Painted screams, The Guardian, Tuesday, 9 September 2008




“The globs of paint thrown by Bacon in their immediacy require he spectator to regress. The chance blobs and slicks of paint in Bacon’s work are formless noise. In those paintings that incorporate chance elements, noise functions to stop the paint from becoming descriptive. Bacon’s throws of paint, however, fissure he paint’s capacity for description. The throws work to disrupt paint as signal. The rake of white paint across the left centre of the canvas in Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror and the whip of white paint above the shoulder of the figure in the right-hand panel of Triptych May-June 1973 prevent the paintings from coalescing. The gobs of paint also constitute an excess to the image. They return meaning to matter, to what meaning is made upon. The noise of these throws of paint carries the painter and the spectator close to the real. These hurls of paint wound.

Nicholas Chare, After Francis Bacon: Synaesthesia and Sex in Paint, Routledge: 2012




In the history of art we see the ontological aspect of the picture in the special problem of the rise and change of types. Essential to an emanation is that what emanates is an overflow. What it flows from does not thereby become less. The development of this concept by Neoplatonic philosophy, which uses it to get beyond Greek substance ontology, is the basis of the positive ontological status of the picture. The original One is not diminished by the outflow of the many from it, this means that being increases. The portrait is only an intensification of what constitutes the essence of all pictures. Every picture is an increase of being and is essentially definable as representation, as coming-to-presentation. Despite all aesthetic differentiation, it remains the case that an image is a manifestation of what it represents—even if it brings it to appearance through its autonomous expressive power.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Ontology of the Work of Art; Truth and Method, Tübingen: 1960




“Paint itself as a victim: There is no reason why we ourselves should not some day be absorbed into this looking-glass, and that is the mirror Francis Bacon’s art holds up to us. Its ambiguity— and perhaps its violence, too— is born of the frisson we experience as we confront this brave new world, which fascinated Bacon himself as its prophet. One of the things we will lose in it, as he was well aware, is paint itself. A painter friend of mine, recently returned from Venice, remarked to me about how few paintings the Biennale contained, as opposed to videos and installations. What, look at a cloth canvas daubed with vegetable dyes and hung, immovably, on a wall? Titian is as far from us now as a cave dweller. Bacon, though, insisted upon paint, as he did upon the material core of humanity, distant and difficult though it had become to our perception (the difficulty was precisely his subject).

Robert Zaller, Francis Bacon’s virtual reality; Francis Bacon at the Met, Broad Street Review, August 15, 2009




“The painterly intelligence and courage of Francis Bacon’s paintings of the late forties and up to the mid 1950s lie in Bacon’s use of his own ineptitude and his limited painterly virtuosity. He recognises the affective power of the pictorial transgressions in his stumbling facture of conventional form and space. He exploits the seductive plasticity of silver grey to black, that sense of form made by laying lighter tones onto dark. This is intelligent because of the acuity of his attention to what he is doing. It is courageous because the whole enterprise is entirely reliant on his ability to find something in the paintings that saved them from looking like the work of an under-trained painter working from photographs. That was what he was. Francis Bacon was rare amongst artists with major reputations. He did not attend art school. The many paintings he destroyed were the paintings that gave him away.

Andrew Brighton, Francis Bacon’s Modernism, Critical Quarterly, Volume 42, Issue 1, April 2000




“Bacon is a magician, a quick-change artist. He brings off the most sudden and elusive disappearing acts and reappearing acts, fusions and transformations. The flesh slips, slurps, smears, flares, blurs, fades, evaporates, abruptly dematerialises. Legerdemain: you look straight at it and you just can’t see how it’s done, how it moves from solid to film to spook to gleam to void and back – and then breaks the picture surface in a great sticky licking whiplash gloop of gunk. All this damage’ is in fact enormously animating. There isn’t a corpse anywhere in Bacon’s work. His savage treatment is an extension, an exaggeration, of the body’s own movements and sensations and expressions. And though his use of oil paint gives him a much more liquid language, it wouldn’t be wrong to see him in the line of English graphic caricature, and the way it uses distortion, not only to play with likeness, but to inject energy and rub the nerves raw.

Tom Lubbock, All hail a vulgar entertainer: Francis Bacon retrospective, The Independent, 10 September 2008




“The one-sidedness of immediacy on the part of the ideal involves the opposite one-sidedness: it is something made by the artist. The subject is the formality of activity and the work of art is an expression of the god only when there is no sign of subjective particularity in it, and the content of the indwelling spirit has conceived and brought itself forth into the world, without admixture and unsullied by its contingency. But as freedom only advances as far as thinking, the activity filled with this indwelling content, the inspiration of the artist, is, as an unfree passion, like an alien power within the artist; the producing has in it the form of natural immediacy, it belongs to the genius as this particular subject of the artist; – and is at the same time a labour occupied with technical intelligence and mechanical externalities. The work of art therefore is just as much a work of free wilfulness, and the artist is the master of the god.

G.W.F. Hegel, Art; Absolute Mind; Philosophy of Mind, 1817–30



A characteristic element in Bacons use of chance in his painting is a white blotch, as found, for example, in Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1967, Study of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968 and Study for bullfight No.2, 1969. In these pictures Bacon throws thick white paint at the canvas: at the face of the figure, at the bull, at the centre of the painting. The resulting white blotch looks as though the undiluted paint  had been accidentally added to the painting by hand... Sometimes it remains where it landed; sometimes it is drawn with the brush to adjacent points in the picture. But first Bacon simply adds the white blotch, whether or not it fits into the painting... In Bacons explanation of the meaning of the white spots and slashes that he added to the canvas so abruptly and almost thoughtlessly, he speaks of pure accident, of instinct, and that the picture almost paints itself. He says that the subconscious is finding expression in his his work.

Barbara Steffen, Chance and the Tradition of Art in Francis Bacon’s Work; Francis Bacon & the Tradition of Art, Skira, 2003




“His new paintings at the Hanover Gallery include four large studies, as he himself calls them, of Van Gogh striding through the country to paint a landscape and here there are few signs of any wilful obscurity. It is true that in all four paintings Van Gogh’s features, as so often in Mr. Bacon’s figures, are blurred and out of focus as if in a photograph taken with a camera which has shifted, but the effect, strangely enough, is to make the image of a doomed and lunatic artist not less but more expressive. If anyone should have left a ghost behind him it is Van Gogh and it is fitting that in these pictures he should look like a vague and momentary apparition still recapitulating his intense emotional experiences at Arles. It is also noticeable that in these paintings Mr. Bacon has changed his technique; he now uses thick and juicy paint laid on with expressionist vigour, whereas his normal method, to be seen in other paintings in the exhibition, is to paint thinly on absorbent canvas.

Alan Clutton-Brock, Round the London Galleries, The Listener, Volume 57, Issue 1461, March 28, 1957




“Bacon obsessively experimented with the sense of motion caused by the different ways that paint leaves the brush or the piece of cloth he often used in place of a brush. Thick strokes of paint sometimes cut through a face, partly making the shape of a cheekbone, partly severing the face like a cubist conceit. Next to or on top of this the firm slash of the brush is countered with paint applied by means of pressing and smearing it with textured fabric, such as corduroy or towelling. Large areas are left unpainted so that the raw linen acts as both colour and texture. These vital details of Bacon’s painting are not readily visible in reproduction, hence the importance of this exhibition for a first-time audience. Bacon used different kinds of paint in the same composition, such as oils, acrylics and spray paint, as well as found materials. Sometimes this seems to have had direct indexical relevance to the subject – for example, applying dust or fluff to the paint to describe the fabric of a coat.

Anthony Bond, Raw Emotional Encounters With Paint; Francis Bacon - Five Decades, Prestel Publishing: 2012




“I always hope for instance in portraits to deform them back into appearance but how often does that happen? How the images come about I just simply don’t know. You see I generally paint with house brushes which people use; I don’t use what is called artist’s brushes very much, I generally use brushes you paint the wall with and so they’re often very loaded; I always want my things to look immaculate but I want them to come about in a very arbitrary and rough way. You see, painting is such a very fluid medium that if you’re using large brushes and if you put paint on the canvas and if you turn a brush one way or another, it has a different implication and you use the implication which is the nearest to your nervous system. I don’t know what I’m doing, really, don’t think that I’m; when I’m saying this, that I’m suggesting I’m a genius, or anything like that; all I do is it just happens to be the way I work, you see; I don’t know what I’m doing but I have an overall sensation before I start the things.

Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon Tate Gallery Retrospective, Ian Morrison: A Visual Heritage Production: 1985




By the late 1970s, as the Met retrospective made very clear, Bacons work was becoming glib, trite, and colour-coordinated to a decorous degree. From boasting that he couldnt do it—that was the whole point—he let it be known that he could do it, indeed had always been able to do it. Freud believes that Bacon had also lost the most precious thing a painter has: his memory, and forgotten that he had done it all better before. The elegance of the Mets installation, which worked so well in the earlier galleries, worked to the artist’s disadvantage at the end. Few of the later triptychs pack as much of a punch as the explosive Jet of Water and Blood on Pavement (both 1988), which are refreshingly free of the artists formulaic figures. As if to register the extent of Bacon’s decline, the Met enabled us to contrast the artist’s wonderful 1944 breakthrough, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, in an earlier gallery with the garish, red carpet remake of it from 1988, which brought the show to a disheartening end.

John Richardson, Bacon Agonistes, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 20 – December 17, 2009




“For the present generation particularly reared on the super-cool art of the past decade, the experience of looking at a painting by Francis Bacon is peculiarly alarming. Bacon’s paintings suck up energy, and it is only when the spectator is emotionally sapped that he can begin to intellectualise the process–to define for himself what the painting has given out. The process is exhausting, and all but the strongest sensibilities may become numb and dazed when when confronted by his work en masse. Bacon has spoken a great deal about the role of chance in his paintings, which he tells us is crucial. It is difficult to believe however that these paintings contain a single gesture accidently conceived. Even the substance of the figures, flayed until flesh and bone coalesce, are laid on in powdery whiplashes of paint, placed with icy brilliance. The impression of flow is illusory throughout; the nameless pink blobs which flow out of the figures of a Triptych of 1972 have coagulated into contained pools, seen starkly on the smooth grey bareness of the ground.

Fenella Crichton, Bacon — Paris Letter;  Art International, Volume XXI/2, March-April, 1977




“I have the feeling that something very remarkable will come out of the United States. As I’ve repeatedly said, I also feel that someone like Jackson Pollock is the most overrated artist. Americans are determined to make an American art that hasn’t been influenced by anything else. I’m not sure this won’t limit them in some way. Communication being what it is, why not accept the whole thing? I’m not interested in the abstract artists. I understand that this type of painting was a logical course to embark on. But it seems to me the subject matter in abstract art, no matter how far you take it and how far you destroy it, instantly seems to degenerate into a form of decoration. And just now figurative art is the most difficult and problematic thing. Many people are trying to return to it, but what are they returning to? They’re returning to illustration and hyper realism and what’s the point of that? It’s of no interest at all. I must say that to me pop art is more interesting than abstract expressionism and hyper realism, which are ridiculous and boring.

Francis Bacon, Agony and the Artist, Newsweek, 24 January 1977




“Only when you can encounter a certain emptiness in yourself could you ever think. Kant says the subject must approach the art object empty. Its not just empty – I dont even have a good reason to be here. Only I end up looking at this work and I don’t know whats happening and because I don’t know what’s happening Ive lost any authority to speak about the object – I have reached a point – and our point here is to say this is not a loss but this is productive: I have reached the point of incomprehension. No longer do I have some capricious remark to say about why I like this painting. It is that I am here and I am flooded with the fantasy that I am less than nothing here. I dont understand. You cannot have an aesthetic experience of an object unless and until you reach the point of incomprehension. Every time you are tempted to grasp the object through your understanding instead of being a triumph it should be a defeat. Art belongs to the domain of the death drive. Because we never have our own vision we remain entirely indebted and damaged and damaged by others.

Mark Cousins, Damage, Architectural Association, October, 1996




“Since the sixties, the painting is the torture. The scale is often epic, but portraiture is always at the centre, because it states, in its most radical terms, the contradiction between the autonomy of paint and the identity of the subject, corralled, attacked from several sides at once. the contortion characteristic of Bacon’s forms is a hanging on to a quarry that tries frantically to escape. There ensues a seesaw struggle in which writhing pigment achieves a succession of brief and partial triumphs: those moments when we forget it because it has suddenly become, with a kind of savage presence, a foot, an ashtray, a cheekbone, a knee clasped in that inimitable British way. And at once the image dissolves into brush-strokes. Thus painting can be said, in Bacon’s words, to be and not to be.... Hence perhaps Bacon’s jubilation at the disappearance of painting in our time: it proves that ’painting is just beginning'. The image will have reality only as long as we do not mistake it for reality; and when we do (when we want to touch it), the image relapses into paint. And so on indefinitely, with each picture .

 Pierre Schneider, THE SAVAGE GOD, A French View of Francis Bacon, The Sunday Times, November 7, 1971




“Bacons mastery of texture is evident not only in the controlled energy of such gestural distortions, but also in his rendering of the subtleties of physical objects, from the coat, hat, umbrella, and plants in the Figure Studies of 1945-46 to the floor, furniture, and rolled-up sleeves of his black shirt in Self-Portrait with a Watch, 1973. Colour and texture come together in the broad colour-field planes in which Bacon sets his figures, confirming that his paintings are essentially abstract—for the figures also are abstract signifiers of pure gestural painting, however meaty. Even when Bacon sometimes uses uncloroed raw canvas as a picture plane, he always uses it in a refined way, juxtaposing it with areas of pure color confirming that his pictures are formal constructions. Their broad, flat, impassive expanses seem to encapsulate the abstract sublime. They transcend the figures, even as they reveal their inner emptiness (their storm and tress finally signal nothing; their abstractness is a projection of the death within)—however emotionally raw, ugly, and outspoken their uncanny subject matter.

Donald Kuspit, Francis Bacon - Metropolitan Museum of Art; Artforum, Vol. 48, No.3, November, 2009




Action painting permitted Bacon to actualize his desires through the artistic media he employed. Those sections of his paintings that privilege vigorous handling, the arenas in his canvases, constituted performances. They were wrestling matches. What remains, the dry paint constitutes a record, a representation of the event. Action paintings are not to be looked at, but felt. They require a synaesthetic response. In Bacons case, the gestures need to be seen as excited. The spectator must allow themselves to be roused, stirred, moved. The paint manifests the sexual frisson that accompanied its being pulled across and then held fast against the canvas, forced to submit to the will of the artist. The tensions, the eager tingles and twitches which were experienced within the act of painting, the pleasurable grappling enacted within the arena of the canvas, are available to those who share a similar gestural knowledge and inclinations. They will be able to read their way into these works which emerge out of sexual acts, detail them, are inscribed by them and embody them. These acts will register more strongly with some than others.

Nicholas Chare, After Francis Bacon Synaesthesia and Sex in Paint, Routledge: 2012




“When I was sitting for him in 1953, part of the time he as looking at me, part of the time at a photograph of a rhino in long grass: he said that he found this photograph suggested ways of rendering certain textures in paint. It has been supposed by one or two writers that the model was idiotically sitting there wasting his time while the artist was depicting the head of a rhino. In fact, he was producing a head of the model, one which is fairly recognisable. However, the following day, working without a model, he dressed up the likeness as one of his Popes after Velázquez. During the next two weeks he painted seven further Popes. Some of their faces resemble that of the Velázquez Pope; none of them resembled mine. The picture I had sat for, and which triggered off a series, was thus a compound of several elements – a sitter, a wild-life photograph, an Old Master painting, plus a colour, violet, for the Pope’s robes which is quite different from their colour in the Old Master painting. This is how a painter like Bacon works, not by reason but by instinct. And in life as well as art Francis put his faith in instinct: the word had an almost magical force for him.

David Sylvester, All the Pulsations of the Person, The Independent on Sunday, 24 October, 1993




“When is a leftover not a leftover?—I obviously internally defined a leftover as something which is beyond and outside the category of the category—there’s always a bit leftover—this gap which can never be covered between, on the one hand, subjective identification, and on the other, more objective categories—no one can ever bring out a category which you’re automatically inside because the making of categories always already excludes you—the thought of the remnant and the leftover is an example of what Hegel would call the ruination of everything—now for the object itself—it comes not as speech or writing but as a kind of engraved quotation ”it often seems for non-historical reasons to come from the past; what I mean by that is that is comes from the past but not as a historical process—it comes more like a sort of—the activity of a collectorbut for example: notices which even now exalt us: do not fitcannot but helpit’s not speculation about history—it’s this thing—the object of everyday lifecan doits anonymousit comes in the form of quotation in some sense—it is not going to say life is x x x—it’s what belongs, however, to this kind of region.

     Mark Cousins, The Leftover; Where is Everyday Life?, Architectural Association: 8 March, 2013





“What is Bacon doing in these portraits? One answer is that he is searching for the essence of the person, that elusive and constantly changing element that is an individuals identity. But it is more complicated than that. The way paint is dragged in striations across the faces in certain portraits could also be a way of suggesting physical movement, or it might evoke the idea of a doubly-exposed photograph. And for every brushstroke that builds up form, another seems to shatter it, as though the portrait were the arena in which Bacon can work out his conflicting feelings of affection and hatred for the person he is painting. These heads are painted directly on the canvas without preliminary drawing, so that the image and the technique are inseparable. In Bacons own words, the brushstroke creates the form and does not merely fill it in. In his portrait Miss Muriel Belcher he applies paint with a loaded brush to create a surface as richly impastoed as in a Rubens sketch, dipping his brush in more than one colour, then dragging it in short, striated strokes of green mixed with pink. He then stains the background with two tones of thinned green paint to suggest the space in which Belcher exists.

Richard Dorment, A fresh side of Bacon, The Daily Telegraph, 22 June, 2005




“Because I very much admire Matthew Smith, I am delighted to have been asked to write something about him, although I know I will not be able to do him justice. He seems to me to be one of the very few English painters since Constable and Turner to be concerned with painting, — that is, with attempting to make idea and technique inseparable. Painting in this sense tends towards a complete interlocking of image and paint, so that the image is the paint and vice versa. Here the brush-stroke creates the form and does not merely fill it in. Consequently, every movement of the brush on the canvas alters the shape and implications of the image. That is why real painting is a mysterious and continuous struggle with chance — mysterious because the very substance of the paint, when used in this way, can make such a direct assault upon the nervous system; continuous because the medium is so fluid and subtle that every change that is made loses what is already there in the hope of making a fresh gain. I think that painting today is pure intuition and luck and taking advantage of what happens when you splash the stuff down, and in this game of chance Matthew Smith seems to have the gods on his side.

Francis Bacon, Matthew Smith — A  Painter’s Tribute;  Matthew Smith — Paintings from 1909—1952, London, 1953 




Bacon cant paint a foot or an ear or a hand. Some of the curves he used to describe physical forms are so slack they would have got him fired from a Disney workshop. So Bacon smudged and threw paint and turned forms back in on themselves and disrupted their logic, instinctively hiding his own deficiencies. These smears of paint describing swollen and distended shapes, especially in the portrait, seize attention and distract the eye from what lies between. Which is nothing. Nothing will come of nothing. And Bacons nothing isnt even a black hole, it is a break down in communication. The painting stops dead between the smears of pigment. There is nothing there because it hasn’t been described or constructed or placed. The process, an eruption, sounds unpleasant, and it was; because the secret of Bacons successful work was the paint, like a gigantic eructation of pus. The Grand Guignol apparatus of screaming heads, the sides of raw meat, the smeared visages underpinned this visceral sense of horror. He borrowed motifs, fair enough, but imposed sketchily realised pictorial devices, like the frame crudely articulated to impose some sense of control over the central images sprawling like something from under a stone.

Michael McNay, Just a pile of paint and a nightmare of chic thrills, The Guardian Weekend, 2-3 May, 1992




“In the right-hand panel of In Memory of George Dyer, Bacon’s dead lover is framed in profile. Dyer appears cleaved in two at the chest. His mutilated trunk falls forward from the portrait and lands like a reflection on a blue tabletop. White paint is smattered across Dyer’s chest. Bacon marked paintings that held an erotic charge for him with sperm-like stains. Triptych May-June 1973 recounts the circumstances of Dyer’s death. On the left, a male figure is crouched on the toilet, the position in which Dyer was found. In the centre, black shadows seep from Dyer’s anguished figure, beneath a naked light bulb. On the right, Dyer vomits into a sink. Again, Bacon marked the triptych with smears of white paint. Bacon developed his concept of immaculate painting in his last decades. The term means, literally, spotless, but it took on an almost metaphysical meaning for him. He told Sylvester that his Water from a Running Tap, from 1982, was the most immaculate of his paintings. Art historians long considered Bacon’s final 20 years to be his weakest. Ottinger believes they were his best years, “because they appear so to me, and because Bacon said it”. What was so special about them? Ottinger replies with one word: “Immaculate”...”

Lara Marlowe, Birth. Sex. Death: Francis Bacon’s Tragic Vision of Humanity; The Irish Times, September 28, 2019




The thickly impastoed, spermatozoic streaks of white pigment which cross the bull’s head and that spill across the floor can be compared not only with random secretions of bodily fluids but also with blood, thus providing a clue to what they may signify in later paintings by Bacon: the beautifully staccato splashes of white over the bull’s back may have been suggested by black and white photographs of the shimmering, sunlit blood, brought forth by the thrusts of the banderillas. In 1979 his friend Eddy Batache witnessed Bacon apply one of these painterly flourishes: Suddenly he put on a glove and hurled a pellet of white paint at the picture with all his might, crushing it against the canvas. I was staggered by the force of his gesture and by the risk he was taking.... The present painting is replete with similarly bravura touches, confirming how technically adroit Bacon had become by 1969. Several small areas are left as raw canvas (the bull’s horn, one of its hooves and beneath the spectators at the extreme right), the pinkish blush of the bull’s flank cleverly contrasts with the glossy black surrounding it, and Bacon deliberately flicked thin, liquid drips of black pigment around the centre of the canvas as a final gesture of feigned indifference.

Martin Harrison, Study for Bullfight No.1, 2nd Version, by Francis Bacon; Sotheby’s, September, 2007




“Bacon transfers the visual appearance of photographs into his art, and never more so than when he is painting freely. He has an evocative way of dabbling a dry brush, or twisting a wet one, so that, like heavily screened newsprint or out-of-focus photography, physical reality is evoked, but in a rather oblique form. In fact, Bacon told David Sylvester in a recent interview on the British Broadcast Company that to him “forms change continuously.” He improvises as he works so that a painting, even though planned in advance to some extent, may not have a predictable outcome. It is not the least of Francis Bacon’s paradoxes that however much he improvises in paint, he never loses contact with that blurred, gritty, yet persistently factual presence that photography creates. In a new painting of Bacon’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier his dazzling colour range, and emotive power of his imagery, can be seen. The landscape is sucked into a kind of vortex, and surrounded by a screen, like the canvas windbreaks they put up on Côte d’Azur beaches, or, perhaps, like the pens in which, three hundred years ago, royal bore hunts took place. The forms within this arena are blurred by wind or by movement, including the evocative human-looking smear in the foreground.” 

Lawrence Alloway, Francs Bacon: A Great, Shocking, Eccentric Painter, Vogue, November 1st, 1963




Francis Bacon (1909-1992) completed about 580 paintings and destroyed many more during his working life; over 120 slashed canvases survive. Bacon’s painting technique is distinctive. Apart from the various common paint application techniques (such as brush, airbrush and dripping), imprints and the addition of sand and fibres were characteristic for Bacon. He developed and improved his method of application over his lifetime. Hence, patterns, fibres and sand found in or on his paint were studied to support dating and authentication. As a result, four of six pattern types identified on fabrics and tools in his studio were found as imprints on his paintings. Bacon’s refinement of his “pattern printing” technique is linked to periods of his working life. The earliest paintings which show any patterns are from around 1956. In contrast to that early application which looks accidental, several works in the 1960s feature obvious and well-placed patterns. During this decade, he also began to use corduroy fabric which gives a distinct pattern of parallel lines whereby thin and thick corduroy lines can be distinguished. Bacon used the impression of items into wet paint in his practice and surviving examples of fabric from his studio were investigated during this project.

Elke Cwiertnia et al, Examining artworks attributed to Francis Bacon (1909-1992) to aid authentication, Authentication in Art, The Hague, The Netherlands, May 7 - 09, 2014




Artworks are a priori negative by the law of their objectivation: They kill what they objectify by tearing it away from the immediacy of its life. Their own life preys on death. This defines the qualitative threshold to modern art. Modern works relinquish themselves mimetically  to reification, their principle of death. Artworks derive from the world of things  in their performed material  as in their techniques; there is nothing in them that did not also belong to this world and nothing that could be wrenched away from this world at less than the price of its death. Only by the strength of its deadliness do art works participate in reconciliation. But in this they at the same time remain obedient to myth. This is what is Egyptian in each. By wanting to give permanence to the transitory to life by wanting to save it from death, the works kills it. Art desires what has not yet been, though everything that art is has already been. It cannot escape the shadow of the past. But what has not yet been is the concrete. Each artwork is utopia insofar as through its form it anticipates what would finally be itself, and this converges with the demand for the abrogation of the spell of self-identity cast by the subject. No artwork cedes to another. This justifies the indispensable sensual element of artworks.

Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, The Athlone Press, 1997




Bacon today can do what he likes with paint. He can make the naked human body gleam and glow; he can make a doorknob or an unshaded light bulb into an object of wonder; and he can paint the human eye in such a way that we reconsider the whole relationship of watcher and watched. He could always fold space, and even knead space, in ways peculiar to himself. But when the “great irremediable things” are faced head-on in the new paintings he settles for a grave ordering of the given space; spare verticals and strict horizontals offset the turbulent poetry of the human images. That poetry is always rooted in fact. No matter how fragmented the figures or how extreme the distortion, those who have known them will recognize the sudden hunch of the shoulders with which Lucian Freud will pounce upon a new topic; the strange, burrowing, sideway motion with which George Dyer walked; or the way in which Bacon himself will sit sideways on an old cane chair with sleeves rolled up above the elbow and the compass needle of his attention flickering wildly to and fro. All this comes second, one may say, to the beauty of the paint, which grows more startling year by year. But that beauty is not gratuitous. It is the servant of impulse, not the master; and nothing quite like it has been seen before.

John Russell, Art of a New Francis Bacon Is at Met, The New York Times, March 20, 1975




“For Bacon, the paint clearly possessed essential qualities that could provoke the realm of sensation in powerful and specific ways, as he noted that there is an area of the nervous system to which the texture of the paint communicates more violently. But the painted mark was not an end in itself, to be celebrated to the detriment or exclusion of ideas, but rather was integral to the enhancement of the idea through suggestion and evocation. The prerequisite to realizing the full potential of the painted image was its synthesis with the idea which it was seeking to bring into form, ensuing that, as Bacon explained in 1953, idea and technique were inseparable, creating a complete interlocking of image and paint, so that the image is the paint and vice-versa. The risk that paint would be corrupted by the potential intrusion of a narrative twist that would reduce its force and complexity haunted Bacon, for whom the greatest art is a kind of valve in which very many things of human feeling and destiny are trapped ... something that cant be definitely and directly said. Bacon was equally alive to the medium of photography as a potential illustrative form, noting that the texture of a photograph seems to go through an illustrative process onto the nervous system, whereas the texture of a painting seems to come immediately onto the nervous system....

Victoria Walsh, Sensation and the image; Francis Bacon and the Aesthetics of Ambiguity, Visual Culture in Britain, Volume 10, Issue 3, 2009




“The ugliest of the 36 intentionally ugly paintings by the English artist Francis Bacon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York depicts a nude man sitting–in three panels–in his bathroom. In the last panel he retches violently into the basin, producing a garish stream of of black and blood-red oil paint. But laced across his head and shoulders is a thin swipe of white paint, like a delicate and incongruously abstract mark. Not long ago, Bacon commented revealingly on this tiny white smear: I did that at the very last minute, he said, and I just left it. For me it looked right.  This admission–backed up by the evidence in nearly all of these new paintings, which are filled with cranky smears of paint–makes it difficult to continue celebrating Bacon, now 65, as the last great traditional figure painter, as he has come to be known. In his new art, Bacon has let the deep recesses of terror and anguish for the pleasures of pure painting–the very sin he has often attributed to abstract art. The best part of the Met exhibition is the sure painterly hand at work, seen in the marvellous multi-hued swatches of pigment that swipe across the faces of Bacon’s subjects, the radiant orange backgrounds, the clean, formal compositions. His subjects are as ugly as ever; his means are not. The guardian of the past has deserted to the delights of painting in the twentieth century.

Douglas Davis, Swatches of Bacon, Newsweek, March 31, 1975




“Bacon’s relationship with Abstract Expressionism was complicated. While he often vocalized his dislike of the Abstract Expressionists work, he also utilized some of their techniques in his work. While Bacon desired an ordered image, it needed to have an element of chance. Therefore he also relied on free marks to make his works more spontaneous. While he did not want them to look chaotic, a completely ordered image was boring. So Bacon required a balance between the two, which he referred to as ordered chance. French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze wrote extensively of Bacon’s methods and use of free marks  in his work Francis Bacon and the Logic of Sensation. In creating figures that teetered on the edge of abstraction, Bacon believed this created a certain tension which he saw as a critical component to creating sensation in his work. In using the body this way, Bacon also crushed his figures, tearing them apart in order to allow the internal forces on the body out. Here, I argue that one can turn to the writing of Julia Kristeva on the abject in order to gain a better understanding of why Bacons figures inspire such horror. Although there has been much writing on Bacon’s figures, there has been no other direct connection with Kristevas theory of abjection, which I believe sheds new light on the affect of his paintings on the viewer.

Jennifer Silverman, Francis Bacon: Order, chance and the abject body, VDM Verlag, 2010




“Last week, for example, I was looking at Turner’s great painting “Ehrenbreitstein,” at Sotheby’s the day before a dealer paid the colossal sum of £88,000 for it, and my gaze was held not by the romantic figures grouped in the foreground but by the magic shimmer of colours that drew a wet mist over the lake, and by the nervous licks of paint that described a trail of cloud caught by the sunset. No one today possesses more technical mastery of how to use the brushstroke as this kind of impulsive gesture than Francis Bacon, whose new paintings are at the NEW LONDON GALLERY (until September) in the company of recent bronzes by Henry Moore. There is a terrifying eloquence in those smears of the brush by which Bacon can transform a human face into a rubber mask, and a torso into a carcass spattered with blood and gunshot. I am sure that this sheer virtuosity has contributed more to his huge success than the agonising subjects he portrays. His allegories of the Crucifixion, in triptych form, are neither particularly subtle, original nor convincing. But they are superb stagecraft, and that is the point. Bacon’s vocabulary of Sadism has few words, so that as always he is at his best with single portraits and studies of heads. In general the mixture is much as before, but this is a staggering exhibition. With Bacon, gestures of the brush are used to murder what we recognise.”

Edwin Mullins, Too Many Cooks, Art, The Sunday Telegraph, July 11, 1965




By looking very closely at the surfaces of Bacon’s works one can detect his extraordinary experiments with paint. Sometimes at least half-a-dozen different ways of handling paint can be seen within a small area, such as on a figure’s head. Bacon enjoyed the accommodation of chance that came with the movement of paint. As he explained: ‘… moving – even unconsciously moving – the brush one way rather than the other will completely alter the implications of the image … It’s really a continuous question of the fight between accident and criticism.’ Bacon obsessively experimented with the sense of motion caused by the different ways that paint leaves the brush or the piece of cloth he often used in place of a brush. Thick strokes of paint sometimes cut through a face, partly making the shape of a cheekbone, partly severing the face like a cubist conceit. Next to or on top of this the firm slash of the brush is countered with paint applied by means of pressing and smearing it with textured fabric, such as corduroy or towelling. Large areas are left unpainted so that the raw linen acts as both colour and texture. These vital details of Bacon’s painting are not readily visible in reproduction, hence the importance of this exhibition for a first-time audience. Bacon used different kinds of paint in the same composition, such as oils, acrylics and spray paint, as well as found materials.

Anthony Bond, Raw Emotional Encounters With Paint, Francis Bacon–Five Decades, Prestel Publishing: 2012




The tendency which still exists to regard Bacons paintings as the work of some kind of satanic hedonist, if not ludicrous, is simply quaint. Social and moralist taboos around human relationships and physical indulgences are no longer shrouded by the decrepit cant of 19th century humanism. To regard Bacons work as significant on such bankrupt ethical reference, is to read into them as much provocative eastern promise as you would find in a Bunny Club; it misses the point and does him an injustice. It strikes me as unfortunate, that whether sympathetic or hostile, this lack of assertion in the majority of critical opinion always revolves around the visceral aspects of Bacons imagery. Of course Bacon is a painter of obsessional images, but then in the private terms of every artists need for self-expression, so was Mondrian; so are Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt. It is worth a few seconds thought over whose work is more of a psychiatrists ink-blot, Reinhardt or Bacon? We now all know about Freud and the auto-biographical significance invested in any visual mark; the principal can work equally well for Mondrian and Pollock as well as Bacon. Today there is really little significance in classifying various areas of art as either figurative or abstract. Communication study signifies that it is only a question of time before any figment of painterly marks can be ascribed with specific tangible meaning.

Eddie Wolfram, Rasher than Bacon, Art and Artists, September, 1966





If there is any one moral quality manifested in the way a painter works that painters today value above all others, that quality is a readiness to take risks. And it seems to me that Bacon has been prepared to take risks more freely and grandly than any artist since Picasso – and that this is his greatest strength. In terms of achievement there may several finer painters among his generation that include Giacometti, de Staël, Dubuffet, de Kooning, Rothko, Pollock, Gorky but I do not think that any member of it plays for such high stakes as Bacon. Ii is not only his way of working. It is also that the kind of painting he is trying to achieve is the most difficult to do now. He is trying to paint the human head and human figure not, like Dubuffet or the New Realists, by using a conventionalized sign language, but in a way that traps the fluidity of his sensations of reality. And he is trying to reconcile this submission to the dictates of the external world with a freedom in handling paint hardly less extreme than that of recent abstract painting. Bacon feels dogmatically that abstract art is too arbitrary in form, therefore mere decoration. The modern painters he most admires are Bonnard, above all, Picasso, Matisse, Soutine, Giacometti. All these painters can use commonplace subjects of no immense, inherent emotional import; Bacon’s final and greatest demand upon himself is the risky portentousness of his subject matter.

David Sylvester, Enter Bacon, With The Bacon Scream, The New York Times, October 20, 1963




Birth is a desperate business, and re-birth even more so. The paint-structure in Bacon’s new paintings is by turns rude and sumptuous, lyrical and abrupt, pulpy and marmoreal. Swerving, pouncing, heaped and spread flat, it produces a multiple imagery which is quite new in Western painting. It is not the multiple faceting of the Cubists, which Bacon regards as merely a decorative annexe to Cézanne, and it is not the schematised imitation of movement with which the Futurists were concerned. It is about the risks which we take, and take gladly, every time we approach another human being; in the bizarre conjunctions of impulse for which Bacon has devised a visual equivalent, those risks now have their monument. Bacon’s paintings are often thought of as pessimistic, and Bacon in life is characterised by a lucid stoicism which admits the likelihood that all adventures will end badly. But his is not, for all that, a disparaging art. What he has to say is that even in the ludicrous postures to which social custom condemns us, or which we ourselves seek out at moments of alienation, something can still remain of the master-qualities which Nietzsche tried to rescue for those who came after him. Tenacity, endurance, concentration, and the will to break through to a new kind of eloquence: all figure abundantly in the new pictures. Above all, in Bacon’s own example, man emerges as a choosing animal: and one who can choose, among other things, not to repeat himself.

John Russell, The human presence, Art, The Sunday Times, 12 March, 1967




“The late Peter Fuller had little sympathy with Bacons subject-matter, which he slightingly parodies (Daily Telegraph, 28 October 1989) as lonely figures still throwing up in lavatory bowls beneath naked light bulbs, [who] occasionally... hunch together on couches for some barbarous act of congress, or be sprawled disgorging their abdomens. Nor did Fuller admire Bacons use of paint, saying that he applied pigment as if he hated the stuff, dragging it across the raw, unsized canvas which drains it of beauty and of all semblance of life. Lest we feel the homophobic boot is not well and truly slammed home he added, for good measure, Bacons technical inadequacies seem to me to be inseparable from his spiritual dereliction. While Bacon, the urbane and ultracool artist, acted out his part, his paintings give some idea of his inner turmoil and anger. His paintings of Dyer present his lover as twisted, distorted and virtually disembodied. One portrait, Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1967-8), shows Dyer sitting in what looks like an office swivel chair, his disembodied face, split down the centre, reflected in a lectern-like stand. On the painting are two splurges of white paint splashed across the surface reminiscent of semen defacing the image. Whether indicative of the sexual dimension of their relationship, or of the need to assert a particular personal expression of possession, even in an image, it was Bacon going public on a profound and deeply important part aspect of his emotional life.

Emmanuel Cooper, Queer Spectacles; Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures, Routledge: 1996




“It is extraordinary that one of the beacons of European painting in our time should have been working in England for the last forty years. There would seem to be so little in our suburban and puritanical high culture to sustain a great artist. Bacon mixes grammars of representations. Above all he has submitted his talent as an image maker to the plenitude of painting as a medium and a culture. Submitted, in other words, to that culture of sensibility that has been elaborated through European painting. For instance, like Velázquez he has worked into darkness and used the discernible passage of the brush to evoke form. His drawing of the male form as full of a dense energy is indebted  to Michelangelo. The outbreak of hysterical rhythms has precedents in Munch and the de-idealised display of the body stretched out comes partly from Degas. Many other sources could be argued. But at base, what he has done is to master the capacities of paint’s sensual presence to act upon the sophisticated eye. To do this is to submit to a seemingly unnatural language, one removed and alienated from mundane, relatively unselfconscious communication. He has submitted his imagings to the resistance of painting rather as a poet submits to the resistance of the metre. The resistance is a stepping stone. It breaks up the banality of  first conceptions. It forces translations and transformations into the otherness of a world apart. It gives and withholds meaning. A mirror with its own languages of representation.”

Andrew Brighton, Why Bacon is a Great Artist,  Art Monthly, Number 88, July/August, 1985 




FRANCIS BACON, because he paints violent subjects and uses photographs, thin, sketchy paint, unprimed canvas, and is indifferent to the most respected pictorial conventions of this century, runs the continual risk of being called a sensationalist. Can a serious picture really be painted of a man bouncing and roaring on a bed? one wonders? But it is a question which can only reasonably be asked where there is, in a painting, evident division of purpose. Most of us are used to looking at painting whose values can in some way be separated from their subject matter; and most contemporaries are coy about being of anything; indeed, they make it clear that their imagery is not the central matter of their pictures. But if there is one single positive quality which we can point to in the pictures which Bacon is now showing at the Beaux Arts Gallery, is their wholeness. One is affected by the whole picture and on cannot say now it is this which is exciting and now it is that. Everything is in the paint: paint is image and paint is form. The levels upon which the painting works are so tightly knit that one cannot unravel them. One cannot always name the image until one calls it paint. For this reason it is beside the point to harp on the nature of Bacons subject mater, as if the pictures were no ore than particularly morbid illustrations. Their meaning is untranslatable because it resides in the paintings themselves. Its perception is simultaneous with the perception of the form. If this were not so, they would be sentimental.

 Andrew Forge, Some More London Exhibitions, Art, The Listener, November 26, 1953





Bacon respects art historical precedent, but risk and chance remain constants in his work, much as they figured in his biography, reflected particularly in his early compulsive gambling bouts, wanderlust, and unconventional life style. His dominant artistic concern has been to capture the instant of movement and lifes ephemera before they lose their immediacy. At the same time, he feels that he is engaged in a constant battle, more often lost than won, between the potential expressiveness of the raw material of oil paint on its support and his own refined intention to achieve the visual equivalent of Flauberts exacting le mot juste. Nonetheless, Bacon also paints with abandon, freely using rags and his hands as well as the brush. He is not beyond combining paint with random mixtures of the dust and crushed pastel that have accumulated on his rarely swept and untidy studio floor. He has always painted directly on canvas in a spontaneous and inspirational process of whipping and dragging pigment over the surface with brush or rags, or even flinging it onto the surface from a distance, often in a kind of ecstatic frenzy. His fierce emotional investment in his work, and the desperate all-or-nothing premium he places on expressive realization, however, give way to a secondary refining process and synthesis of formal structuring. Actually, it is inseparable in his mind from the original inspiration and helps him further clarify, focus, and build his repertory of images in their fascinating encounters and mutations.

Sam Hunter, Meaning and Metaphor in Francis Bacon; Francis Bacon, Smithsonian Institution, Thames & Hudson: 1989





Since the death of Picasso, Francis Bacon has more than any other painter provided the age with an image, in Ezra Pound’s phrase, of its accelerated grimace. The key to his work is its ambition. He has taken on the great masters of the past without their mythological resources or their requirement to record events. At the same time he has turned his back on the abstract artist’s indulgence in decorative introspection: the painting whose principal subject is itself and the fact that someone painted it. Although his subject matter, the visual impulse which triggers his attempts to fashion an image on canvas, derives from his own sensibility and is to that extent egoistic, Bacon is the least narcissistic of artists. He uses some recollection or preoccupation which is at hand, so to speak, as a prompt for an act of painting. But it is the paint alone, and what happens as a result of its being pushed around on the canvas, which can provide an image of great externality and force, influencing the viewer with a life of its own and doing this independently of the artist. Bacon is in some respects closer to being a sculptor than a painter. The background to his paintings, which are applied at the end, act as a kind of plinth for the images poised upon them. It is sad that Bacon’s eminence occasions, as is often the case with major artists, so much photographic reproduction of his work. The physical grandeur, the sensual texture of his paint outweighs the often horrifying imagery it encapsulates. In reproduction it is the imagery that tells.

Grey Gowrie, Francis BaconModern Painters, Volume 1 Number 4 Winter 1989/9





“It will take considerably more than mere death to stop our Modern Masters from competing with one another. We know, of course, that Bacon claimed to have little time for the New York School. Could this former interior decorator and inveterate gambler have contrived a more cutting insult than when he described abstraction as ‘decorative’, calling Pollock ‘that old lace maker’, or when he compared de Kooning’s carnivorously sensual, scary women to the figures on playing cards? And yet, for all that, looking at his paintings now, who would insist that Bacon never learned to profit from the happy accident — a thick ejaculation of paint that somehow hit the spot — or that his smudgy yet unapologetic figuration drew no courage from de Kooning’s example? The big canvases, the painterly confraternity, post-war luxuriation in that species of sensory excess that only saturated pigment can reliably deliver — suddenly the Atlantic seems to narrow, the link with France attenuated marginally by wartime and long habituation. If Bacon could kill one father, in other words, he could kill plenty more. He may have played up the differences between his art and what was happening in America at the same time, and others may have had good reason to do the same, but — well, today, looking back with the sort of clarity conferred by distance, it’s hard to be quite so sure. And indeed that’s yet another framing device: Bacon’s place in the epic struggle that once pitted the giants of American Abstract Expressionism against the School of Paris plus miscellaneous fellow travellers, tales of which now form such a colourful adjunct to the generally more prosaic history of the Cold War.

Bunny Smedley, The picture unframed: Francis Bacon at Tate Britain, Fugitive Ink, 7 October 2008





“The study of a standing female nude by Francis Bacon in the Marlborough Fine Art show of 19th and 20th-century masters is not usually considered to be one of his outstanding works. There’s a routine look about the calculated strangeness of the setting and the colour has been brushed onto floor and walls with an unpleasant streakiness. The woman herself is not a pretty sight. Her belly sags and her arms are so simian in length that she can clasp her hands down by her knees without bending forward. She’s as grotesquely lumpish in her way as the Willendorf Venus. The picture was painted in 1961 and seems to have been in the gallery’s stock ever since. From time to time it’s sent to exhibitions abroad, but it always comes back, and whenever I see it again I’m glad that I once described Bacon, without a ‘perhaps’ or even a ‘probably’, as the greatest painter of flesh since Renoir. He doesn’t attempt to simulate flesh: it’s as if the paint with which he forms a human figure is itself of flesh — a substance that bruises easily and grows scabs over its wounds and is scarcely out of the tube before it has been mottled and distorted by half a lifetime of misery and pleasure. The woman on exhibition stands in the middle of what appears to be a well-lighted cell, and by leaving her, exposed and humiliated, to the tender mercies of the spectator he turns everyone who clasps eyes on her into a compulsive interrogator. What brought you to this? A hint of gracefulness in her stance and of graciousness in her face are like dim recollections of lost attributes, and the paint is so involved with the subject that we don’t know whether we are trying to evaluate a painting or passing judgement on our confused response to a woman.

Robert Melville, Lost Attributes, Art, The New Statesman, Friday July 29, 1966




That there was a highly erotic component to Bacon’s handling has already been recognized by Michael Peppiatt, who has remarked that when Bacon ‘said that he ‘‘painted to excite himself’’, he surely meant: to re-create certain extreme sexual sensations’, adding that ‘it would be true to say that, at one level or another, much of what he painted is a projection of sadomasochistic practices’. In the same context, he has also written elsewhere about ‘the cunningly suggestive texture’ of Bacon’s paint.35 This texture forms part of a wider effort by Bacon to hypostatize pain as paint. Bacon’s paintings are, as Peppiatt intimated, suffused with sadomasochistic allusions. This is particularly evident in relation to the thick gobs of paint that the artist threw at some of his works towards the end of their creation, globules of pigment with a particularly marked haptic appeal. Like the ear in Head 1, they literally stand out for the beholder. Triptych (1976, Private Collection), because of its pale green ground, gives a strong sense of the mass, the substantiality, of these blobs. In the left panel, the sheer quantity of paint that Bacon lobbed onto the canvas is evinced by the bleed of oil that forms a halo around each throw of white pigment. These ejaculations should not be viewed as nonrepresentational. They look like the haphazard spatters of come stains on sheets and can be read figuratively as the residue of Bacon’s act of beating his meat. These fat spats, however, also possess an acoustic potential that gives them another layer of sexual significance. To look at these globs can be to feel the splat, the whump, of a quantity of wet paint striking the canvas. To hear the sound is to hear the state of the material.

Nicholas Chare, Upon the Scents of Paint: Bacon and Synaesthesia; Visual Culture in Britain: Volume 10, Number 3: November 2009





“Unlike his forerunners, Godard and Truffaut, Bertolucci has tended to avoid literary references in his films. Perhaps because of his highly cultivated upbringing as the son of a poet and film critic in Italy he has found such reminders either ‘phoney’ or otiose. And yet his work is saturated in culture—in history. In Last Tango he confronts the decline and fall of America in the last dozen or so years. It is not fanciful, I think, to see Brando’s Paul as representing a vision of America’s decadence. The genius of Bertolucci is to have harnessed this masochism to a vision. Last Tango is an elegy to the European dream of America, and it takes the form of a psychoanalysis in which the patient acts out his fantasies not to an older, wiser man but to Jeanne, a new European, released from all preoccupations except pleasure. In the course of their fitful meetings it is Paul who does the talking, Jeanne who complies, unaware of how or why he is manipulating her. Behind the opening credits are two Francis Bacon portraits—a man and a woman. The male figure sits twisted, a smear of painted flesh; like Paul, one does not imagine that he remembers very many good things. The paint, as in the calmer portrait of the woman, is lavish; the distortions of the features are not necessarily emblematic of pain or horror, but rather to do with what Bacon has called the element of accident which for him is an essential ingredient of a work of art. There may be a clue here to the puzzling combination of symbols and techniques which contribute to the style of Last Tango in Paris. The dream of the fall of America seen in the disintegration of one man calls for extraordinary subconscious resources to be applied with the greatest confidence and skill.

Julian Jebb, The Unvisitable Past— Review of Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, Sight and Sound, International Film Quarterly, Spring: 1973





“Bacon’s paintings tend to be large, but not overly so, and scaled to the body. The mark of the artist’s hand plays back to us when we stand in his place in front of the canvas. Bacon’s brushwork always rewards close scrutiny; he was a master in applying paint to convey a range of sensations. From the early 1960s his colours became incredibly vibrant, often isolating and foregrounding the central motif, usually a figure, in flat fields of pure colour... What is real in Bacon’s art is never the appearance of things but always the dramatic encounter of each viewer with the fact of paint and the sensations it conveys. Bacon’s images are nearly always beautiful in spite of, or indeed because of, the violence he did to appearances in the process of transforming flesh into paint and paint into flesh. It is my hope that in looking closely at the works in this exhibition viewers can experience a physiological and personal response to the paint whereby their subjectivity overrides any conscious attempt to interpret what Bacon was thinking or feeling. This is what Bacon wanted and is what he makes possible in the way he constructed his paintings. Painting for Bacon was definitely not intended to be narrative or illustrative, or psychoanalytical or autobiographical, even though his work traces his close observation of twentieth-century images and events... The zip of white paint he often threw at the canvas at the end of the painting process was, he said, a way of introducing an element of chance that might or might not bring the work to fruition. This practice has also been invariably read as ejaculatory. As a gesture, this may well have been how Bacon felt about it as the culmination of the creative process but, again, it is not the literal story he wanted to tell.

Anthony Bond, Bodies In Paint; Francis Bacon — Five Decades, Prestel Publishing: 2012





“FRANCIS Bacon is 75. The Tate Gallery is giving him a major retrospective exhibition, its director has described him as “the greatest living painter”. Self-taught, he fumbled and groped his way backwards from surrealism (the ism current in his early thirties) towards Velasquez and Van Gogh, with a sideways look at the emerging strength of Graham Sutherland, learning always from paintings rather than painters. His handling of paint grew richer and more assured as the images became more complex. He always drew and defined so that the twisting and turning of the loaded brush describes the texture, form and volume, as well as the colour, light and shadow. Bacon puts down much of this painterly skill to happy accident — instinct perhaps but accident never, for the paint comes clean from the palette, on a brush of the right width, perfectly loaded for the length of the stroke, the stroke perfectly weighted and there is correction. That kind of handling is not achieved by chance. The strokes are often long and curving, elegantly reflecting the forms that they depict. He is indeed a painter’s painter and no man who has ever held a brush in his hand can fail to respond with the thrill of awe and envy to the bravura piling up of paint at one extreme and the miniaturist delicacy of detail at the others. As with Titian at a great age there is no falling away of power in his most recent work — old Titian had a trembling hand but Bacon’s is as steady as a young man’s, and the images are newly vile. Bacon is that rare thing, a painter to join the pantheon of Michelangelo and Raphael and Titian, a towering giant of his century, a living painter whose work would add lustre to the National Gallery — and that is the honour with which he should be recognised.

Brian Sewell, A painter to join the gods, The London Standard, Friday, May 24, 1985





“In becoming bored by something we are precisely still held fast by that which is boring, we do not yet let it go, or we are compelled by it, bound to it for whatever reason, even though we have previously freely given ourselves over to it. Being bored is neither a waiting nor a being impatient. This having to wait and our impatience maybe present and surround boredom, but they never constitute boredom itself. The result for our guiding problem of what becoming bored properly is then reads: Becoming bored is a peculiar being affected in a paralysing way by time as it drags and by time in general, a being affected which oppresses us in its own way. In becoming bored we are held in limbo, and indeed by time as it drags. To where are we held, then? To where does time hold us, and what is it we dwell upon? We find the answer to this question if we pay attention to where we wish to arrive through passing the time. For passing the time betrays to us where we want to get away from, and this is precisely that place to which time in its slowness hold us. The dragging of time proved to be that which holds us in limbo. Accordingly, becoming bored is a being held in limbo by time as it drags over an interval of time. Boredom springs from the temporality of Dasein. Boredom therefore, we must say in anticipation, arises from a quite determinate way and manner in which our own temporality temporalizes itself. We only understand profound boredom as such from out of a particular, i.e., essential boredom, and accordingly all interpretation of its superficial forms takes its lead and derives its illumination from there. Essential knowledge is possible only from out of and in an originary questioning. We can only understand that profound boredom, create room for it, in such questioning.

Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 1929-1930





Though the faces in these recent paintings of Bacon’s are more distorted than ever before, far less convulsion and frenzy grips the painting as a whole. The twisting figure of George Dyer or of Lucien Freud occupies its maroon dais in a calm sea of floral carpet and unconstricted sweep of pastel-coloured wall. Even the face, though it may be pushed wildly out of its limits to allow gaps and openings in the paint, is fastidiously done, with minute attention to colour and texture. This is a virtuoso exhibition, but the paintings seem much less intense in feeling than those of three or more years ago. Where Bacon’s early images of Popes and executives were fleeting and psychic, barely materialized, we are now more conscious of Bacon displaying his skill and persuasiveness in handling paint. In the “Lying Figure” of last year the bare mattress, bare walls and liquefying figure are treated in a frankly aesthetic way, and apparently with little psychological tension. Bacon has often described his aims in painting as being to “make a direct assault on the nervous system”. In an interview with David Sylvester printed in the Marlborough catalogue he quotes Paul Valery’s remark about wanting to give the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance. There must be innumerable ways of attempting to do this, but to lift the sensation out of its customary vehicle, to evade the nervous system’s protective padding, Bacon has employed his own famous method of working, ruthlessly destroying banal work and hoping in the process and by accident to discover a hidden intuitive direction. His direct assault on the nervous system was made by discovering a balance between a familiar recorded image (like a photograph) and an unstable, disoriented way of painting. The image acquired presence on the point of slipping away or being destroyed.”

    Guy Brett, Francis Bacon’s imagery less intense, The Times, 15th March, 1967





“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. For while in all other kinds of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it. That the mere matter of a poem, for instance, its subject, namely, its given incidents or situation–that the mere matter of a picture, the actual circumstances of an event, the actual topography of a landscape–should be nothing without the form, the spirit, of the handling, that this form, this mode of handling, should become an end in itself, should penetrate every part of the matter: this is what all art constantly strives after, and achieves in different degrees. Art, then, is thus always striving to be independent of the mere intelligence, to become a matter of pure perception, to get rid of its responsibilities to its subject or material; the ideal examples of poetry and painting being those in which the constituent elements of the composition are so welded together, that the material or subject no longer strikes the intellect only; nor the form, the eye or the ear only; but form and matter, in their union or identity, present one single effect to the imaginative reason, that complex faculty for which every thought and feeling is twin-born with its sensible analogue or symbol. It is the art of music which most completely [138/139] realises this artistic ideal, this perfect identification of matter and form. In its consummate moments, the end is not distinct from the means, the form from the matter, the subject from the expression; they inhere in and completely saturate each other; and to it, therefore, to the condition of its perfect moments, all the arts may be supposed constantly to tend and aspire. In music, then, rather than in poetry, is to be found the true type or measure of perfected art.

Walter Horatio Pater, The School of Giorgione; The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, 1973





Bacon mixes grammars of representation. Above all he has submitted his talent as an image maker to the plenitude of painting as a medium and a culture.  Submitted, in other words, to that culture of sensibility that has been elaborated through European painting. For instance, like Velázquez he has worked into darkness and used the discernible passage of the brush to evoke form. His drawing of the male form as full of a dense energy is indebted  to Michelangelo. The outbreak of hysterical rhythms has precedents in Munch and the de-idealised display of the body stretched out comes partly from Degas. Many other sources could be argued. But at base, what he has done is to master the capacities of paints sensual presence to act upon the sophisticated eye. To do this is to submit to a seemingly unnatural language, one removed and alienated from mundane, relatively unselfconscious communication. He has submitted his imagings to the resistance of painting rather as a poet submits to the resistance of the metre. The resistance is a stepping stone. It breaks up the banality of  first conceptions. It forces translations and transformations into the otherness of a world apart. It gives and withholds meaning. A mirror with its own languages of representation.  He seems to me to be one of the very few English painters since Constable and Turner to be concerned with painting, that is with attempting to make idea and technique inseparable. This could have been said of Bacon but was, of course, said by Bacon in his much-cited tribute to Matthew Smith. But Bacon, perhaps more than any other painter, has pulled images and ways of looking derived from the mechanical means of representation into the heart of painterly sensibility. He has, in other words, conjugated the most vulgar, the most seemingly 'real' language of representation with the most sophisticated.

Andrew Brighton, Why Bacon was a Great Artist, Art Monthly, Number 88, July/August 1985





“One can only say you absorb all types of things which go into a kind of pulveriser in the unconscious and may come out as something quite different later. I was always fascinated by images, and I looked at everything. I destroyed most of those early pictures as I didnt like them, but I was very influenced by Picasso, especially the paintings he did between 1925 and 1927 0f figures on a beech. Everybody is influenced at the start — it is the spark that sets one off. I dont think it matters even if one goes on being influenced — some of the greatest paintings, like Cimabues Crucifixion, are based on what has been done before; only someone new comes along and does it better. Any painting that works today is linked to the past. In a way it was better when there wasnt so much individuality. But because today there is no tradition and no myths, people are thrown back on their own sensibility. Abstract art was perhaps one attempt at getting away from this, but it never worked because the artists made their own patterns in their own ways. That is why American art is, on the whole, boring. They want to start from nothing. I understand their position: they are trying to create a new culture and identity. But why try to be so limited? I am trying to work as close to my own nervous system as I can, but my painting is not illustrative and has no message; it is an image. If I wanted to express philosophy I would write, not paint. Sometimes I feel I am not working at all, just pushing the brushes here and there. In some of my most successful pictures the image has come through as a result of accidental movements of the brush. I believe one is born and one dies and only what one does between these two absolute points counts. Also, painting is an old man’s occupation. Some of the greatest have done their best work in old age: Titian and Picasso and others. So I hope I shall go on and drop dead while working. When all is said and done what matters is instinct.

Francis Bacon, The Images of a Master by Shusha Guppy, Francis Bacon A Painter of Haunting Images; Telegraph Sunday Magazine, November 4th, 1984 





Francis Bacon bestrides this honourable tradition. Pictures, no paintings. Best of all, English narrative pictures. One must be careful here: he is of course painterly picture maker. His legions of admirers say so. Many of his admirers are painters themselves’, some very good painters; though Bacon himself, we keep hearing, was the greatest living artist, the best British artist since Turner. But Bacon’s paint is in the service of pictorial effect. The surface itself should not be scrutinised too carefully. Too often in doesn’t describe what it purports to be describing. Bacon can’t paint a foot or an ear or a hand. Some of the curves he used to describe physical forms are so slack they would have got him fired from a Disney workshop. So Bacon  smudged and threw paint and turned forms back in on themselves and disrupted their logic, instinctively hiding his own deficiencies. These smears of paint describing swollen and distended shapes, especially in the portrait, seize attention and distract the eye from what lies between. Which is nothing. Nothing will come of nothing. And Bacon’s nothing isn’t even a black hole, it is a break down in communication. The painting stops dead between the smears of pigment. There is nothing there because it hasn’t been described or constructed or placed. The process, an eruption, sounds unpleasant, and it was; because the secret of Bacon’s successful work was the paint, like a gigantic eructation of pus. The Grand Guignol apparatus of screaming heads, the sides of raw meat, the smeared visages underpinned this visceral sense of horror. Bacon was the last and most extreme of the line of painters who followed van Gogh. But Bacon was self-taught, and unlike Van Gogh, never overcame his technical deficiencies. He borrowed motifs, fair enough, but imposed sketchily realised pictorial devices, like the frame crudely articulated to impose some sense of control over the central images sprawling like something from under a stone.

Michael McNay, Just a pile of paint and a nightmare of chic thrills, The Guardian Weekend, 2-3 May, 1992





“In Aesthetic Theory Adorno claims that works of modernist art can, in virtue of their characteristic autonomy, successfully capture and impart the shudder. Here the shudder is not just a response to primal amorphousness and undifferentiation; it is the appropriate response to the abstract nature of modern life. The shudder is a reaction to the cryptically shut, which is a function of that element of indeterminacy. So far we have seen that the shudder is not just a mimetic reaction to primary, undifferentiated otherness. It is also, and more importantly for our purposes, a spontaneous and somatic response of revulsion at pure identity. But even in this extended sense the shudder is not merely a negative response. The shudder fulfils a positive epistemic function. It is the gateway to the path of truth. It allows what is to disclose itself as radically evil. As such, the shudder is the form which metaphysical experience assumes under social conditions of total identity. Shudder, then, is a response arising from the metaphysical experience of a world without wonder. Shudder is the equivalent in the modern, disenchanted, capitalist world of the classical metaphysical experience of wonder: it is the gateway to the path of truth; but the truth to which it leads is that the world is radically evil. As the correlate of truth the shudder is has a positive epistemic significance for Adorno. Fortunately Adorno thinks that the capacity for shudder has not yet been completely extinguished from human life. One reason why Adorno values modern art so highly is that it manages to preserve the shudder even under social conditions that militate against experiences of the truth. Modern art survives its assimilation to the functional totality its relegation to mere entertainment by becoming difficult, introverted, dissonant, shocking. Modern artworks in a deliciously dialectical irony fulfil this promise precisely by delaying and withholding the promised satisfaction.

 James Gordon Finlayson, Metaphysical Experience: Shudder as Inverted Wonder; Adorno: Modern Art, Metaphysics and Radical Evil; Modernism/Modernity, Volume 10, Number 1, 2003





Bacons contrived accidentssqueezing paint into his hand and throwing it at the canvas, the use of sponges, the rubbing in of studio dust and so onallow him to pursue an alternative practice of painting to that of representation. To understand the force of  Bacons images we have to understand the way in which they undercut the regime of representation. Now this regime is described by the fact that it ties together my wish to see and what is presented to me, a unity of the scopic field and the spectator. But when the gaze as an object becomes detached from this scene, a dislocation occurs. A gap opens up—the circuit is broken. The illusion of wholeness has been, as it were, castrated. In fact we can treat Bacons images as just that—castration erupting within our wish to see, within the scopic field. One no longer has vision, but the eye lives on. The function of vision has been subtracted from the eye. The violence of sensation has squeezed out a literal essence of being, the lamella, a puddle of being. To claim that the lamella appears in Bacons work is to claim that he has taken the detachment of the gaze to its limit. The paintings are as far as possible withdrawn from the painting of everyday life, while yet capturing the appearance of a human being. The violence of the painting is the correlate of the violence of appearing. What is at stake is not violence but paint. Nothing could be more bland and obtuse than to use Bacons work as a narrative about the lamentable violences of the age. The violence which Bacon creates concerns a certain experience of the body and something to do with the horror of a too-close presence. This violence can indeed be usefully treated through the question of the detachment of the gaze. It will be that which enables us to distinguish in Bacons paintings between a violence of painting and the painting of violence. The violence of sensation can also be very powerful and the question of the violence of sensations in Bacons work is an important point.

Parveen Adams, The Violence of Paint; The Body, Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts, Academy Editions, Ernst & Sohn: 1993





There is no reason why we ourselves should not some day be absorbed into this looking-glass, and that is the mirror Francis Bacon’s art holds up to us. Its ambiguity—and perhaps its violence, too—is born of the frisson we experience as we confront this brave new world, which fascinated Bacon himself as its prophet. One of the things we will lose in it, as he was well aware, is paint itself. A painter friend of mine, recently returned from Venice, remarked to me about how few paintings the Biennale contained, as opposed to videos and installations. What, look at a cloth canvas daubed with vegetable dyes and hung, immovably, on a wall? Titian is as far from us now as a cave dweller. Bacon, though, insisted upon paint, as he did upon the material core of humanity, distant and difficult though it had become to our perception (the difficulty was precisely his subject). Two paintings from the Met show may illustrate this for us. In one, his lover, George Dyer, is shown, nude and from the back, sitting on a toilet. He is surrounded by white space except for the piping that conducts Dyer’s waste away from him and toward us: a man, in effect, shitting in our faces. In another, Blood on a Pavement, a smear of blood is all that is left of the absent figure, and the background itself is rendered as three Rothko-like panels (another appropriation from the Expressionists, despite Bacons expressed disdain for Rothko). The Dyer portrait is, among other things, the ultimate send-up of the papal thrones; here, Bacon suggests, is where we all sit. We don’t see Dyer’s waste, but the image makes us inescapably conscious of it: shit is the one natural reality we can’t escape, however politely removed by modern plumbing, and however antiseptically white our bathroom walls and fixtures. Similarly, blood is also our trace: the one testimony to our existence when the murdered corpse has been removed from the scene of the crime. We live, and therefore shit; we die, and therefore bleed: however virtual our reality may become in between, these signatures reveal us.”

 Robert Zaller, Francis Bacon’s Virtual Reality; Francis Bacon at the Met, Broad Street Review, August 15, 2009





“This is an act without a subject: Bacons throwing down of ‘non-rational marks, those which convey the ‘mystery of fact, not the mysteries. An expropriation. ‘And you cant will this non-rationality of a mark. The moment of art production as an intentional event, as exteriorisation of representation (Hegel: Vorstellung einer Vorstellung), voluntarism (even technicist voluntarism), mimetic theories, hylomorphism, theological linear theories of art production (and their rational humanist derivations), the art work as intentional, interpretative object ... etc. These fantastic constructions fall  with the contingency of the artistic process. The artist is circuited, immanent to the production process the agent-subject ‘becomes the empty place where the impersonal affirmation emerges.  But it is in the moment or act of Bacons non-rational marks, the moment of the circuiting, that Batailles will to chance is given its full pictorial equivalent, the art-work produced in the throw of a dice. The artist is ‘sick, spilling its transcendence, emptying its site. An opening then, but not discursive, not a mouth, rather a mouth-like aperture, an osculum... For the real critical force is produced by the condition of Bacons painting: the act that is sovereign in Batailles sense, redundant. It is an act in immanent excess of itself, the figural (substantive) become verbal (impersonal)... Indifference is intoxication: Bataillean sacrifices, a gift. This is the material of Bacons pharmacy, giving access onto the sensible donation itself. Sensation and not Hammer-horror, the sensational; paint spreading the organism on a nervous system, freeing a body becoming sensation. No, the first name given to auto-immune disease is more apt to this painting: horror autotoxicus. Understanding Bacons fugitive body incarcerates it, dissimulates it; perhaps Batailles experience (non-knowledge) or Michauxs connaissance par les gouffres is the nearest one can come. At any rate, to adapt Artauds hommage to Van Gogh, to understand the body, it is necessary to give your own body to Bacon’s painting.

Nick Millet, The Fugitive Body: Bacon’s Fistula, The Body, Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts, Academy Editions, Ernst & Sohn: 1993






Since the death of Picasso, Francis Bacon has more than any other painter provided the age with an image, in Ezra Pound’s phrase, of its accelerated grimace. The key to his work is its ambition. He has taken on the great masters of the past without their mythological resources or their requirement to record events. At the same time he has turned his back on the abstract artist’s indulgence in decorative introspection: the painting whose principal subject is itself and the fact that someone painted it. Although his subject matter, the visual impulse which triggers his attempts to fashion an image on canvas, derives from his own sensibility and is to that extent egoistic, Bacon is the least narcissistic of artists. He uses some recollection or preoccupation which is at hand, so to speak, as a prompt for an act of painting. But it is the paint alone, and what happens as a result of its being pushed around on the canvas, which can provide an image of great externality and force, influencing the viewer with a life of its own and doing this independently of the artist. Bacon is in some respects closer to being a sculptor than a painter. The background to his paintings, which are applied at the end, act as a kind of plinth for the images poised upon them. It is sad that Bacon’s eminence occasions, as is often the case with major artists, so much photographic reproduction of his work. The physical grandeur, the sensual texture of his paint outweighs the often horrifying imagery it encapsulates. In reproduction it is the imagery that tells. Like Eliot’s early poetry, Bacon’s paintings are documentaries of nervous stress. Given the era in which we find ourselves living, this comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the attempt to endow our diminished psychological circumstances with painting which can achieve the formal grandeur and beauty of texture of the very greatest old masters. These characteristics remain, in his best paintings, long after the initial assault on the system has worn off. When things work, therefore, the quality achieved is joy, which is, as Bacon said it should be, the purpose of art.

Grey Gowrie, Francis Bacon, Modern Painters, Volume 1 Number 4 Winter 1989/9






The revelation of this carefully selected, historically self-conscious retrospective of the work of Francis Bacon is the progression over the course of the artists career from a loaded, murky painterliness, to a spare, even linear, handling. This evolution toward an evanescent thinness, even when colour is boldly uniform, goes hand and hand with his schematization of format and figures. Here Bacons signature tortured subjects progressively reveal themselves as tropes, even clichés, of stylized suffering. Is the late economy of means successful? Certainly it is another way of sustaining the expressionist attitude at a time when its language of direct expression seems to betray it. There is the sense that the dryness of the late works may not be the result of a diminution of anguish—did Bacon become habituated to his own psyche, and thus less overtly mad, more sane?—but simply the exhaustion of artistic means with which to articulate it. Indeed, the late works look redundant, as though Bacon is pedantically driving home the predictably painful lesson life inflicts on those who expect comfort from it. The late works seem less visionary, as though Bacon, having grown accustom to his insanity, now saw it with mundane eyes. The least that can be said is that Bacon seems tired—of himself? Of the habit of making pictures? In contrast to the compulsive early works, in the last paintings he may be taking himself, and art, for granted. There is no sense, however, of a grand summing up in Bacons last works, no sense of wisdom—visual or existential—distilled from all the year of labour. At the same time they hardly constitute the whimper that T. S. Eliot thought came with the end. Rather, Bacon has become a mannerist of himself. His late works index his earlier works, but they look like a table of contents to paintings that were never made. Thats the way an artist signals hes at the end of his tether, has nothing more to say: his works begin to look like an index to themselves, an index easily confused with a table of contents. Why, one wonders, is there no living work to read, and only the denuded text?

Donald Kuspit, Francis Bacon - Museum of Modern Art; Artforum, Vol. 29, No.3, November, 1990





“The practice of painting could hardly fail to preoccupy any painter, but these works centre upon painting itself in particular and distinctive ways, partly because Bacon used them experimentally, in an attempted change of artistic direction. Bacons later paintings often evoke a very common corporeal experience of dissonance, the jarring sensation of arrested motion, when the bodys weight suddenly throws itself against a movement it had been helping to impel. He would frequently paint figures caught in a twisting motion, with out-curving brushstrokes suggesting the motion of flesh, thrown outward against the restraint of hips or spine. In the van Gogh series, however, the body shapes are among the most rigid in Bacons work, despite the fluid strokes that define them, and nothing here is thrown out from the containing mass, still less escaping entirely, like excrement or an ejaculation. Through his variations, Bacon experiments with a dialectic essential both to selfhood and to painting in the tradition that concerned him: painting is something done and something seen, selfhood is active and also passive. If I say I am my body’, this entails both that I am in my actions and also that I am in a merely passive sense one (physical) body among others. In painting these figures and the flowing paint of the road, wet-in-wet, Bacon realised anew the potential of oil paint to hold in contradictory combination the properties of solidity and liquidity, the inertial and the mobile. The paintings play variations on this dualism. In a different way in each version, the figure stalled against slipping fields of colour acts as a pivot for a reciprocal movement, like that of a tracking camera, tended to the viewer. In versions II and III, the painters own passive stillness as a witness before his work casts a shadow across his vehement agency within it. Placing an apparition in the path of painterly action, Bacon slippingly paints the slipping place of selfhood, in its strange otherness. Separating act from appearance, he frames, at the crossing of perspectives, a figure whose maleness is asserted negatively, in a venture of chance.

Brendan Prendeville, Varying the Self: Bacon’s Versions of van Gogh, Oxford Art Journal, Volume 27, Number 1, Oxford University Press: 2004





His own ‘teasing question’ about image-making and painterliness touches on the issue: Bacon’s prowess as a poetic inventor – starting with the matchlessly ferocious mutants of his 1944 debut – has long prompted people to will old-masterly greatness on his paintwork. The mastery of fresh skills that recharges Bacon’s art from the early 1960s – his use of contorted human forms as containers for squirming flesh paint, themselves held down within designer-tidy interiors – could possibly have been inspired by the way the young Kitaj composed on the canvas with ripped, projected images; at any rate, his working ethos seems to come into clearer focus from this time onwards. An alternative, more ancestral perspective on the nature of Bacon’s skills might be to call him a northern painter. A painter, that is, of a humanity born clothed; in this case, of a race that presents itself in suits and ties. It’s not exactly that Bacon, as in his own disclaimer, couldn’t draw. No one has had a more forceful structural knowledge of heads, and of the tooth-ringed hollow that runs through them; hence the power of his screams and his metamorphosed portraits. It’s simply that few figurative artists have got through a career with such a radically unstructured notion of what lies beneath the collar. Occasionally, he takes a butcher’s cleaver to his quasi-acephalic nudes and discovers a backbone. But for the most part, his instinct tells him that when you unbutton the tweed and serge encasing the mid-century British male, there lies revealed a rippling, amorphous flood of blubber. Unaided by anatomy, Bacon thrashes about through much of his career to find formulas to convey this judder of flesh. Short, circling swoops of the brush, topped with little blurts from the paint-tube, prove the most productive device: he gets very exquisite when he finesses them with dusted and printed pigments in the later work. He whips paint into fleshliness with this incessant urgency because the operation promises to deliver a kind of transubstantiating miracle. It offers him direct access to ‘life’ – to the essence of things, as that gets defined by a God-disdaining vitalist.

Julian Bell, Get Out; London Review of Books, Vol. 22, No. 20, 19 October 2000





“While all these devices produce an effect akin to that of a photograph, it is not from photography that Bacon has learned them. It is the late paintings of Rembrandt that have shown him how to use an extremely restricted range of colour, how to dissolve forms into space, and how to destroy the picture-plane. For Bacon’s problem is, finally, very much a painter’s problem. It is to make paint on canvas function in a way analogous to that in which ink functions on news print. From his attempt to do this derives one of the most remarkable and mysterious qualities of his work. Very often, when we look suddenly at a picture in the papers, our first impression is simply one of nebulous, blotchy greys whose meaning is altogether vague. Likewise, looking at some of Bacon’s paintings, we are conscious at first only of the paint, seeing it as some amorphous, ectoplasmic substance floating aimlessly on the canvas. It takes a little time before this stuff that is paint crystallises into an image. But as soon as it does crystallise, the once vague and shifting shapes become volumes modelled with a wonderful sensitivity and situated with extreme precision in space. The certainty with which Bacon creates volumes, volumes that are tangible, is largely due to his uncanny sense of the exact degree of tension along each form. One of his pictures shows the lower half of a human face with the mouth open in a scream which is provoked by the fact that one ear is attached to a cord drawn out taut from the ceiling of the room. What makes this image so overwhelmingly moving–at the level of tragedy, not Grand Guignol–is how vividly we are made to realise the tightness of the cord. The intense grasp of the physical reality of the situation makes us feel it is ourselves who are being tortured. This immediate sense of pain is engendered again by the way in which Bacon, in a painting of the Crucifixion, causes us to sense the tension of the stretched-out armpits and biceps. Likewise, in painting flesh, Bacon conveys the exact variations of its softness and resilience at different places. And when he clothes his figures, the paint explains precisely where and how the fabric clings to the body.”

David Sylvester, The Paintings of Francis Bacon, The Listener, Volume 47, Number 1192, January 3, 1952





“The hand ventures forth and catches hold of its goal with an inevitable share of chance or of mischance, since it can miss its try. The hand is by essence groping and emprise. Groping is not a technically imperfect action, but the condition for all technique. The end is not caught sight of as an end in a disincarnate aspiration, whose destiny it would fix as the cause fixes the destiny of the effect. If the determination of an end cannot be converted into a determination of a cause, this is because the conception of an end is inseparable from its realization; an end does not attract, is not in some measure inevitable, but is caught hold of, and thus presupposes the body qua hand. Only a being endowed with organs can conceive a technical finality, a relation between the end and the tool. The end is a term the hand searches for in the risk of missing it. The body as possibility of a hand — and its whole corporeity can be substituted for the hand — exists in the vertuality of this movement betaking itself toward the tool. Groping, the work of the hand par excellence, and the work adequate to the apeiron of the element, makes possible the whole originality of the final cause. It is said that if the attraction that an end exercises is not entirely reducible to a continuous series of shocks, a continuous propulsion, this is because the idea of the end governs the release of these shocks. But this idea of an end would be an epiphenomenon were it not manifested in the way the first shock is given: a thrust in the void, at random. In reality the “representation of the end and the movement of the hand that plunges toward it through an unexplored distance, preceded by no searchlight, constitute but one and the same event, and define a being that while being in the midst of a world in which it is implanted, yet comes to this world from the hither side of the world, from a dimension of interiority — a being that inhabits the world, that is, at home with itself in it. Groping reveals the position of the body which at the same time is integrated into being and remains in its interstices, always invited to traverse a distance at random, and maintains itself in this position all by itself. Such is the position of a separated being.

Emmanuel Levinas, The Dwelling; Totality & Infinity, 1961





“Texture forms part of a wider effort by Bacon to substantiate pain as paint. The carnal surfaces of his paintings are frequently impressed  by fabrics which play an important role in the production of Bacons ridged and  speckled, stippled effects. The results, achieved through using cashmere and cotton, can can be read as reminiscent of the skins fleeting memory of having a textile pressed hard against it. It is the handling which is the key. Bacon identified with the paint. The paintings not only evoke the sounds of sexual pleasure but also feel and smell of it. The aim of his paintings, to arouse senses beyond sight, is paralleled in comparable muscle erotica which frequently celebrates the other senses through images. The emphasis on Bacons works on desires that privilege  senses other than sight invites a queer reading of his practice. Smell is a sense Bacon particularly exploits in his work. The stench of blood often adheres to his to paintings. This is fitting given the quotation from Aeschylus which Bacon so admired: the reek of human blood smiles out at me. Blood is literally aromatic. It has a ferrous, metallic scent, one which can be detected in a works such as Blood on Pavement (1988, Private Collection.) The stink of gore is also placed in the foreground in Bacons images of meat such as Carcass of Meat and Bird of Prey and Figure with Meat. The haunches of flesh in these works opens out to our nostrils calling upon us to queasily inhale them, their scent of animal. They reek of brute bodies, reminding us of the odours that lie above and beneath our own skin. Deleuze writes that in Bacon: each time meat is represented, we touch it, smell it, eat it, weigh it. This painting seeks to return to us  an appreciation of those senses we usually suppress, senses whose complexity has become curtailed, that are too often overlooked in the everyday. It encourages us to sniff the air like a hunter from a bygone age on the scent of quarry. Bacons art is delicious in that it strives to return something of the texture of existence to us, both in pleasant and unpleasant forms, through an encouragement to engage all our senses in the reception of his paintings. The entire body responds to Bacon not just the eye and mind.

Nicholas Chare, After Francis Bacon: Synaesthesia and Sex in Paint, Routledge: 2012





“Only when a man has seen does he truly see. To see is to have seen. What is seen has arrived and remains for him in sight. A seer has always already seen. Having seen in advance, he sees into the future. What is it that the seer has seen in advance? Obviously, only what becomes present in the lighting that penetrates his sight. What is seen in such a seeing can only be what comes to presence in unconcealment. But what becomes present? The seer stands in sight of what is present, in its unconcealment, which has at the same time cast light on the concealment of what is absent as being absent. The seer sees inasmuch as he has seen everything as present. The seer is the madman. But in what does the essence of madness consist? A madman is beside himself, outside himself: he is away. We ask: away? Where to and where from? Away from the sheer oppression of what lies before us, which is only presently present, and away to what is absent; and at the same time away to what is presently present insofar as this is always only something that arrives in the course of its coming and going. The seer is outside himself in the solitary region of the presencing of everything that in some way becomes present. Therefore he can find his way back from the “away” of this region, and arrive at what has just presented itself, namely, the raging epidemic. All things present and absent are gathered and preserved in one presenting for the seer. The seer speaks from the preserve of what is present. He is the sooth-sayer. The seer is the one who has already seen the whole of what is present in its presencing. In “to have seen” there is always something more in play than the completion of an optical process. In it the connection with what is present subsists behind every kind of sensuous or non-sensuous grasping. On that account, “to have seen” is related to self-illuminating presenting. Seeing is determined, not by the eye, but by the lighting of Being. Presence within the lighting articulates all the human senses. The essence of seeing, as “to have seen,” is to know. Knowledge embraces vision and remains indebted to presenting. Knowledge is remembrance of Being. Knowledge is not science in the modern sense. Knowledge is thoughtful maintenance of Being’s preserve.

Martin Heidegger, The Anaximander Fragment; Early Greek Thinking, 1975





“By action Nietzsche means it in a kind of fairly extended way — let us say — kind of having and fulfilling a project: he quotes with enormous admiration Goethe. When Goethe observes that nobody does anything grounded by conscience, the point that Goethe is trying to make is that once you start doing something the sign under which its done falls away. Right. For Goethe no action fails to engage in a sense the entire mind of he or she who undertakes it. So whatever prior motives one has for doing something — or to turn that the other way round — whatever subsequent rationalizations one might make in ones own favour about why one did it — as one does it — one does only it. Right. In this sense no action in and of itself can ever be kind of virtuous because in order to complete an action — in Goethes terms and in Nietzsches  kind of reading of him — one has to throw everything else away. To enact is to throw aside conscience altogether. And therefore if one has to look for the sources of an action — one has to look for them other than kind of in the field of conscience. Nietzsche takes then the analysis of consciencelessness of all action as also being, in some sense, a model for action. Right. That is to say anyone who wishes to under take something must in some sense forget. At the extreme case they must actually, importantly, forget why theyre doing it; they must forget why theyre otherwise their capacity to do it would be undermined. What is at stake for Nietzsche in his elaboration of Goethe is precisely the capacity to act which depends upon a radical form of forgetting. An act with passion requires that you, in some sense, forget the object of passion. Really what it opens up is what you might call a kind of non-intellectualist conception of action which completely opposes the normal kind of Western way of looking at an action. The kind of dynamics which are unleashed in an action depend therefore — if not on some kind of absolute forgetting of everything — they depend upon a kind of inspired absent mindedness: its not about being focused on something — far from it because in some sense its objectless — its a quality of a kind of internal dynamic — it is the unleashing of passion where we suddenly find ourselves not terribly acquainted with the internal structure of a passion because were so used to giving those descriptions in terms of their objects.  

Mark Cousins, Radical Forgetting, Architectural Association: 8 November, 2002





“The mystery of how facts can be made is an accident because you can analyse the thing as far as you possibly can but finally the mark that you make is something you dont know whether its going to make the image that you want to record or whether it will; whether this fact that youre trying to record can only be made out of accident because once you know how to make it — or what youre going to make — you make an illustration of the fact. Now, this is a very complex thing to talk about but, of course, Matthew Smith, to some extent, was near that; perhaps all the painting that in the last few hundred years that I have most admired has been made that way; if you look at the thing Constable made of the leaping horse, the study of the leaping horse, this was made by continuous marks which, if you analyse the marks, they were anti-illustrational, but they were marks which brought the facts more immediately on to the nervous system. Abstract painting is a form of escaping the issue because abstract painting can never, even at its very best, can be never more than lyrical, charming and decorative; it never, finally, unlocks, like great art can do, unlocks the valves of feeling by this attempt to record the fact. You see what any artist needs today is a profound technical imagination; its a technique by which he can reset the trap in which the image that he wants to record can be trapped again. Well, you  see now if you know how to record it you illustrate it so the great recoding of fact today can only be made through accident and the painter himself, of course, you may say, in a sense, its a accident out of which he finally chooses the marks which he wants to leave, and can remake the image. On a superficial level, photography can take over from an ordinary simple recording of appearance; what is more difficult is how can you remake appearance, how can you bring this appearance, this thing you long to trap, how can  you bring it over directly on to the nervous system, more directly, and more immediately than any illustration of it can ever do, or that any photograph can ever do. The technique has to be reinvented. The moment the technique is invented it dissolves again because the moment it is known it immediately takes on an illustrational appearance so the technique of recording has to be, all the time, remade so its like a continuous invention, really, to record a fact.

Francis Bacon, Interview with Julian Jebb, BBC Arts: 1965




The classical artist is preoccupied with realism. Bacon is absolutely for realism, only he would argue that now photography has made reportage redundant you need psychological realism as well, the shadow as well as its fact. He is adamant that he is not an Expressionist painter. He believes in truthfulness rather than effects. The affecting, even upsetting, quality of his work comes partly from what Michel Leiris has called his exhilarated despair ... the painful but lyrical disturbance felt by all those who, living in these times of horror spangled with enchantment, can contemplate them with lucidity. It also comes, more prosaically, from what he would see as his failure to win the fight between the raw material of oil paint and the minds eye. When Bacon does win his paintings are both awesome and tender, moving in the highest and most humane way. Yet even the violent distortions of his figures are implicit in their own flesh as well as in oil paint and the painters need to trap the visual aspects of personality by memorising it. He does not paint from life. He was teaching himself oil paints correspondence with the destiny of the observed world; the Courbet road to nature. His brush-strokes are rapid (he does no preliminary drawing) and blur into one another. So originates the suggestion of flesh poised, like that of M Valdemar in Poes horrifying tale, on the edge of instant putrefaction. Facial features are blurred in Bacons way as if they and the pigment from which they are formed had been pummelled into the final image. (This is often literally the case, since he paints with rags and his hands as well as with brush.) But across the whole width of the face is a superimposed white drip or tache of paint extraneous to the image yet formally devastating in the way it cancels an already pretty terminal environment. Stripped of its associations, the picture has the vibrance—even the prettiness—of colour which early in his career Bacon found in a medical text book about diseases of the mouth. Bacons surgeons aesthetics and sang-froid take some getting used to. They are worth it because they are bound up with his special lucidity of purpose. Look how close oil paint comes to the stuff of life, he seems to be arguing. You are used to it with clouds and hills in landscape painting. Why not get used to it with the body? And if the painter is lucky, impulses of memory and desire may allow him to manipulate the stuff so as to trap elusive and temporal personalities, and our feelings about them.

Lord Grey Gowrie, Francis Bacon: Artist of Endgame; The Sunday Times, May 19, 1985




Bacon works in the tradition of a Renaissance master, and is only a painter — no etchings, lithographs, finished drawings, or designs for the theatre. His subjects are not pretty things for the drawing-room, and the scale of his work suggests that he makes no concessions to the private patron... In more complex structures Bacon may introduce two profiles in a single head, facing in opposite directions, without destroying the integrity of the whole — it is a kind of re-thinking that Renaissance painters allowed themselves in their drawings, when looking for a more effective alternative to a first idea, but with Bacon it is not an alternative but an added dimension. All this might suggest that Bacon is a draughtsman. In the mid-40s there was indeed a drawn quality to his painting, common to Graham Sutherland and a host of English painters of that generation descended from the romantic tradition of Samuel Palmer, but within a decade his handling of the loaded brush had become so assured, and so powerful, that he was no longer dependent on the careful delineation of an element to give it effect. Now it is all pure paint, and the length, breadth, loading and pressure of a single brushstroke contains all the information about the structure, character and movement of the thing painted, as well as its more obvious colour and texture. Bacon has claimed that this painterly skill is often accident — I believe it is as accidental as Alfred Brendel playing a perfect scale. All this is the more remarkable because Bacon is self-taught; he has no academic background, and his only technical training came from his friendship with Australian painter Roy de Maistre, but he has an intuitive and analytical eye that enabled him to learn direct from paintings. Inspired first by Picasso of the late 20s, his work refers openly to Van Gogh, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Grunewald and Giacometti; these were not merely the sources of his powerful imagery, but of his techniques. From them he derived the strength to create some of the most ferocious images of this century, keeping open, as he said, ‘the line to ancestral European painting while producing something that comes across as entirely new’ — when he paints the themes of crucifixion, it is as a commentator on the beastliness of man and not as a believer in Christianity, yet his paintings have all the conviction of passionate Christian belief... But look at the paintings: any man who has handled a brush, or has an empathic response to the action of painting, must find in Bacon’s pictures an astonishing mastery. Among post-Renaissance artists he is a great painter; in the wilderness of post-war art he is the towering giant.”

Brian Sewell, The Loaded Brush, The Listener, 10-16 November, 1984




“Bacon would often squeeze paint onto the door or walls of his studio and then press fabric into the pigment which he would then print the canvas with. Bacon’s varied handling  has been recognized for some time yet it is not interpreted in relation to articulations of sexual difference. The fine patterning of colour produced by applying paint by the way of fabric, however, contrasts markedly with the thick strokes of paint that parallel it. The delicate traces of colour left by pigment-soaked textiles connote intimacy whereas the swift smears of thick paint come across as more aloof. The masculinity of the Abstract Expressionist, their painterly aggression, manifested itself by way of a brief yet brutal interaction with the canvas. In the paintings by Bacon that make use of textiles to enhance their tactile effects there seem to be two different registers of handling at work. The touches that involve the use of fabric can be gendered as feminine. The impasto, however, denotes masculinity.

It is noteworthy that Abstract Expressionism is in Bacons mind  when he discusses paints contingent potential. This is because his exploitation of chance leads to aspects of his paintings resembling those of the first generation of the New York School. The chance blobs and spatters of paint appear similar to Pollocks drips. The thick globs of pigment Bacon threw onto his paintings can be read as an exaggeration of the aggressive techniques of the Abstract Expressionists. The chance throws of paint frequently look like they are the product of ejaculation. This is doubly the case in a work like Triptych (1976, Private Collection). In the left panel of the triptych there are two thick blobs of white paint. The sheer quantity of pigment they are formed of has caused oil to bleed outwards into the light green ground forming dark circles. The effect resembles come as it seeps into a bed-sheet. The contingent chucks of paint that Bacon adds to his painting represent a hyperbolic performance of Abstract Expressionist technique. They form a parodic enactment of its masculinist values paraded as dirty laundry. Bacon’s aligning of Pollock with a lace-maker, a fabricator of textiles, demonstrates that he perceived the mismatch between Pollocks macho posturing and the delicate outpourings of his drip-paintings. These dainty actions spoke to the London artist louder than the words of the critics. It fits well with Bacons other proclivities, the enjoyment he took in being beaten and whipped. Action painting permitted Bacon to actualize his desires through the artistic media he employed. They were wrestling matches. What remains, the dry paint, constitutes a record, a representation of the event.

Nicholas Chare, After Francis Bacon Synaesthetics and Sex in Paint, Routledge: 2012




“A discussion about how paint operates and behaves is extremely important in locating reasons for its continuing relevance, and for that reason, Bacon’s analyses during his interviews with David Sylvester (2002) remain pertinent. Although Bacon eschews abstraction and is at pains to discuss his figurative intentions he is, at the same time acutely aware of the visceral effect which a material like paint can potentially arouse, and how it can become a potent vehicle for expressing emotion. Through his own appreciation of how emotive the material of paint can be ‘in itself’, Sylvester maintains that ‘the thing that’s difficult to understand is how it is that marks of the brush and the movement of paint on canvas can speak so directly to us’ (Sylvester 2002: 58).

It is the transformative power of paint in the construction of such typical images that continues to make painting so valuable and resonant. Bacon describes the difficulty of this because as any painter knows, it is sometimes problematic to reason out why some passages of painting ‘work’ or are more effective than other passages. Often it is a matter of instinctive feeling rather than a process of logical reasoning. Bacon talks about this being the difference between what he terms as ‘paint which conveys directly (i.e. onto the nervous system) and paint which conveys through illustration (i.e. which is prosaic, dull and meaningless)’ (Sylvester 2002: 18), and that,

It is something to do with instinct. It’s a very, very close and difficult thing to know why some paint comes across directly onto the nervous system and other paint tells you the story in a long diatribe through the brain. (Sylvester 2002: 18) Here, the acknowledgement of the importance of ‘feel’ for paint and of the instinctive knowledge which derives from familiarity with the material, is seen to take precedent over and above any kind of logical reasoning thought process. The sensory responses for the painter and for the viewer must be activated immediately or else it will not be effective. If one has to rationalize the process or to somehow explain the procedure or ‘story’ to oneself, then the painting has basically failed.

There is a belief here that to be successful, painting must touch the nerve of the body, must engage with the body and that this can only be manifested through the material itself. The notion of embodiment would suggest that the material becomes the body itself, in a process akin to transubstantiation. In order for this to occur in practice there needs to be a conjunction of technical awareness and imagination the feelings towards things and objects of the world which are not only ‘seen’ but ‘felt’ bodily, and so strongly that it can bypass the intellectual, rational side of thinking altogether.

Bacon’s quest for painting might appear to be an existential one, a lament and nostalgia for the passing of time with the realization that, for the painter, the possibility of cheating time and death with the material certain[1]ties of pigment is, at least temporarily, a possibility.”

Michael Jarvis, Francis Bacon and the practice of painting, Journal of Visual Art Practice, Volume 8, Issue 3, 1 December, 2009




“How often do we feel about art what were supposed to feel? I can only answer for myself and I would guess that its something like two times out of a 100, which may sound a rather depressing strike rate but seems to me a quite bearable ratio – or, at least, a realistic one. And I dont mean by this that the other 98 encounters are worthless, because theyre not. They can be full of interest or diversion, or even confirm a long-held prejudice, which is always satisfying. What I mean is that they don’t result in that compulsive swoon of pleasure that a lot of writing about art suggests is the natural state of affairs when we get it on with an artwork, and that a lot of enthusiasts for culture like to imply they’re getting on a regular basis. Its possible, of course, that Im just culturally anorgasmic, but I dont think so. I think people quite often fake it, noisily pretending to a climax that they haven’t actually felt.

Still, its very reassuring when it happens. You know that the organs of appreciation are still operational, and the very rarity of the event gives it an added thrill. It happened to me last week while walking round the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Arts exhibition of Francis Bacon portraits. This was prime territory, it seemed to me, for the faked orgasm. Bacon is (still) in vogue, and now getting to that stage where its clear that vogueishness has nothing to do with his reputation. So, you expect to encounter words such as “wonderful and “dazzling and “breathtaking – with their familiar accompanying anxiety that your breath wont be taken and you won’t be dazzled. And for one or two rooms, that’s how it was. Its a fascinating show, thoughtfully laid out and full of arresting paintings, but it wasnt until I came to Bacons Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror that I felt that the art was doing the lifting rather than me.

Its not an entirely typical Bacon portrait, this one – isolating his lover in what looks like a circle of light and revealing his profile to one side, in a strangely angular mirror. But what caught my eye was a single long arcing brushstroke that Bacon has put above the figure. In spatial terms, its ambiguous. Is it a glint of light on a curving transparent screen in front of the figure? Or does it mark the top edge of the concave curve behind him? Or is it simply there to balance the composition (which it does very effectively)? Whats most thrilling about the line, though, is not its teasing indeterminacy (it may not even reproduce in a newspaper picture) but the way that it has been marked out in one swift sweep of the brush – a swing of the arm from one side of the canvas to the other. It was done with such briskness that the paint couldnt keep up. It has broken and thinned at various points, returning sharply at the edges of the mark –perhaps as Bacon rolled the brush in his hand and squeezed the paint to the edge of the bristles.

There is another striking paint mark on this canvas – an ejaculated gob of white paint that splats across the lower part of the figure, and seems to offer a rather literal example of Bacons ambition that his paintings should leave “a trail of the human presence... as the snail leaves its slime. But, perhaps because of its slightly callow suggestiveness, it isnt a patch on the controlled curve above it, which is a real human trace, not a simulated one. There was something about it that was very exciting, and, for me at least, it suddenly clarified the rest of the exhibition, as if everything had popped into focus.

The distinct feeling in many Bacon portraits that the image of the person lies somewhere behind the paint – that a resemblance has been worked over (sometimes as a boxer will work over an opponent) – makes more sense if you think of the brushstrokes as physical gestures. They arent just the record of a visual impression, or an attempt to replicate it on canvas. Theyre a record of Bacon imaginatively touching that face – sometimes tenderly and sometimes aggressively. What fantastic strokes they are, too – sometimes like a whiplash across a cheekbone, sometimes a gentle brush, as of fingertips smoothing out an eyebrow. And if youre in the mood, as I was, they are genuinely thrilling – an overworked word that, every now and then, is the only one that will do justice to a reaction thats not just about the brain.

Thomas Sutcliffe, It’s alright not to be unmoved by art, Voices, The Independent, Friday 26 August, 2005




                                                                               The Ontology of Paint




                                                                                                                                                                Right Panel detail of thrown paint from Triptych 1974-1977 by Francis Bacon







The ontology of paint


The ontology of paint kindled and fermented, formed and thrown in the abimages of Francis Bacon cannot be understood through either crude ‘common-sense’ nor nuanced ‘critique’ because the paint has its own language as the artist had repeatedly stressed. For Bacon, we simply cannot talk about painting because paint does not talk like we do. For Bacon, the paint of being is also the being of the paint, which has ‘a life of its own’. Paint speaks through its language not through our language. Paint speaks sensations. The aim of paint is to give sensation. The aim of life is to give sensation. The aim of all life is sensation. Sensation is ontological. Paint is ontological. There is no logic of sensation. There is no logic of paint. Ontology is non-logical just as painting is non-logical. Ontology and Painting thus cannot be understood logically and intellectually. Ontology and Paint are necessarily non-intellectual and anti-intellectual. Being is not thinking. Paint is not thinking. Being pulsates. Paint pulsates. In Rembrandt, Velázquez, Fragonard, Van Gogh, Soutine and Bacon in particular the pulsations of the paint become the pulsations of the portrait of the person as thereby the work reaches a primordial plenitude of an attuned and attained absolute-jouissance revealing the Real where we witness the Real of which Lacanians and Žižekians and Derrideans cannot come-off to attain absolutely since they themselves are always without thembeing without themthere without beingreal without realbeing’ that-is-then without being-really-there without really-being-their, without being-in-their-to-be-there, without there-in-being-to-be: without-being-in-reality, without-being-within-the-realm of the Real, that is, being-the-real of the Real that is Dasein.

Bacon does not ‘represent’ being but presents being: the pulsating primordial paint-in-itself is thus prior to representation having nothing-in-itself to represent. Bacon’s non-narrative-paint is the pure ‘presentation’ of being before being a re-presentation of the ‘human-being’ which are animal beings for Bacon because for Bacon there are no human beings as such. The primordial presentation of the paint in the abimages of Bacon undermines our ‘common-sense’ assumptions about the retarded regime of realist representations revealing just how unreal photorealist painting really is and, indeed, how just how uncannily unreal photographic representation is. By necessity the art critic cannot write about Bacon’s paint so resort to dull and dreary descriptive literal (narrative) interpretations that are as absurd as they are meaningless; and often their ‘criticism’ of Bacon unwittingly reveals their right-wing heteronormative’ conservative homophobic moralism saying absolutely everything about themselves yet saying nothing about Bacon because nothing can ever be written about Bacon’s paint-for-itself-as-it-is-all-wet-and-all-about which is not being: ‘all about something’. Bacon as: having nothing to say’, poses profoundly precarious problems for the art critic as: always having something to say.




Paints Being; Bacon & Pang


Paint comes into Being through the Artist. The artist gives being to the paint whose being remains dormant until its is birthed by the artist who brings the paint to the there to be-there as paint-there being-there. However, very few artists can bring oil-paint into being-there as the da-sein of the oil-paint just as few humans have being to-be-there for a body-there is not necessarily a being-there for not all humans are there as beings just as not all paint is there as being as being-there which is why the da-sein of the human and the dasein of the paint are rather rare today. We have witnessed a retreat of the human-being there and just as we have witnessed the retreat of the oil-paint there. The being of the human and the being of the paint are hardly anywhere about today since dasein is diminishing all around the world today with the being of the human and the being of the paint no longer being-around and about as we wearily witness amongst these dasein-dead contemporary painters such as: Tony Bevan, George Condo, John Currin, Marlene Dumas, David Hockney, Yoshitomo Nara, Jenny Saville, Richard Prince: unwittingly, these: non-painters present the non-being of the human-being: as an ex-being, as an exited-being, as an extinct-being; non-painters non-painting the ex-human: post-human condition.

For Bacon the paint has to be fresh in order to be at all and this freshness is its wetness as being-the-paint-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself as a jettisoned-jouissance. The existential question of paint for Bacon is to be or not to be paint and for the paint to be paint is to paint outside of illustration (which always lacks being: illustration and photography are necessarily non-ontological which is why photography and photorealist painting paradoxically never looks real). Bacon sensationed: ‘What has never been analysed is why this particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration. I suppose because it has a life completely of its own. It lives on its own, and therefore transfers the essence of the image more poignantly.’ The ophthalmologist ‘old master’ panoramic-pantomimist painter Ruben Pang’s ‘particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration’ because it: ‘lives on its own’ pang panoptic panful pannikin panontologically pander pantropic pantoffle panacea pandurate panhandle pansy pandit panties pantries panoramically pant pantographic pandurate panegyrically panic panfried panache pancakes panto pantyhose pansophy pantisocratist pantrymans pantograph panjandrum panickiest pantomimist pangenetic pansexual pandemics pandemonium pantaloons panicle pantheistically panleukopenia.




The Utter Unreality of Hyperrealist, Superrealist and Photorealist Painting


The utterly uncanny thing with photorealist painting, with hyperrealist painting, with superrealist painting, is its utter unrealness, is its unpaintedness. With so-called realist painters’ such as: Roberto Bernardi, Robert Bechtle, Luigi Benedicenti, Robert Cottingham, Mike Dargas, Robin Eley, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Ralph Goings, Gottfried Helnwein, Joongwon Charles Jeong, Richard McLean, Yigal Ozeri, Denis Peterson, paradoxically nothing ever looks real because the paint is deliberately negated as appearing unpainted and so does not live, let alone, live ‘on its own’ because the paint is non-ontological: the paint is deliberately devoid of painterly dasein; the paint has no beingness, the paint has no thereness; the paint is daseinless and therefore these ‘painters’ are not realist because reality never comes across to us in such a clinical-sterile sharp-focused way at all; after all, no one has ever looked really like a photograph of themselves. Unwittingly, photorealist painting, and like hyperrealist painting, and like superrealist painting always looks’ just so unreal and so one really has to ponder, and to really wonder, why this is so. Yet the realist pastel paintings by Kyohei Sakaguchi look so really real because they are not all pristine and polished like photorealism and hyperrealism and superrealism, but raw and rugged, rough and ready, like: reality. Yet James White is an extraordinary exception to the rule regarding realism as there is something alchemically alluringly abreal at work which is beyond perfectly pristine ‘photorealism: non-photorealist ‘literal-likeness in ‘realist painting is really difficult to ‘bring off, for it is usually done to: ‘look real within the ‘commonsense sense of it: ‘looking just like a photograph.

Unlike the far more modern and radical real realist painter painters such as: Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez, Fragonard, Constable, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh, Sargent, Corinth, Nolde, Soutine, Auerbach, Kossoff, Bacon, Pang where the paint of being-a-being is there as being-there alive-there as a radicalised realism which is really real reality in being there ontologically as living paint living there and not as representation; unlike the negated paint of the photorealists, the hyperrealists, the super-realists, who are actually, in fact, highly intricate-illustrators of high-resolution photography where the skill is to look just like a photograph: Yet a photograph is not at all realistic. The Juvenile Lead (Self-Portrait), 1907, by Walter Richard Sickert refreshingly looks nothing at all ‘just like a photograph’ and it yet looks so much more real as we really are in reality than any photorealist portrait painting. Some of Sick-fuck-Sickerts Camden Town non-illustrative ‘done-in (finished-off) ‘fuck-faced’ scrubbers make one really realise just how really regressively retarded realism has now become.





                                                                                                                                                                                                           James White, The Foil, 2015






Bacons Paint


Bacon’s Paint came into Being in 1950 and throughout the 1950s Bacon’s paint was working toward the negation of illustration where the paint is the form, and not a filler of form; and ended painting proper by 1970. Of course our common-sense’ tells us that Bacon had been painting before 1950 and after 1970 but scarce-sense’ tells us that Bacon actually began Painting as paint branded as his own being his own way being his won style as a becoming of the paint as being Bacons Paint as that paint which belonged to Bacon alone as his own; the last painting passage being that white sprinkling semen-spirit slash in Triptych August 1972. That Bacon painted before 1962 and after 1972 is not in doubt but rather that paint was lacking the presence of the paint that was the poignant-pulsation Bacons Dasein; and where Bacon was able paint with paint being-paint-for-itself as in itself by painting beings rather than illustrating beings. Anyone can illustrate being; not anyone can paint being; the problem is to paint being outside of illustrating being: this is the real challenge to the painter today of the painter of today for the painter today; but even today, at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, the painter today is still interpellated in illustration in illustrating being but not painting being as illustration is easy and lazy: it appears to be true today to sadly state that the vast majority of portraitists have learnt nothing at all from the daringly inventive, non-illustrative, portraiture of: Sickert, Cézanne, Picasso, Bacon and Auerbach.

Bacon’s perfected painted paintings are: Head of a Boy (1960), Paralytic Child Walking on all Fours (1961), Crouch Nude (1961), Head Man in Blue (1961), Figure Turning (1962), Study of Portrait of P.L. (1962), Seated Figure (1962), Figure with Two Owls, Study after Velasquez (1963), Study for Portrait on Folding Bed (1963), Turning Figure (1963), Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Red Ground (1964), Study for Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1965), Crucifixion (1965), Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on Blue Couch (1965), Study for a Portrait (1966), Study for Portrait of John Hewitt (1966), Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966), Study for Head of Lucian Freud (1967), Two Figures on a Couch (1967), What distinguishes the Dasein of Bacon’s paintings of the 1960s are appearances of the animal condition and the alien condition where there is no human condition there. Bacons particular Style emerged in 1963 producing the finest works of his chequered career as Bacon was to stop painting entirely by 1980s where the paint has dried up and died up so completely lost its Dasein even if old Bacon had not quite lost his being; though yet some say towards the end that he was not there anymore; most of us die before we die ontologically speaking because our Dasein often dries-up and dies-off before we do; we being our body: which is why we see so many bodies-about-here-and-there-without-beings-about-here-and-there as bodies-over-there without beings-over-there for dasein is not what it once was.

Bacon’s art-brut abpaint releases the primal-shudder of the abject-sublime. The primordial-paint activates a shudder-sensation dreaded-directly to the nervous system bypassing the intellect. An abjected-abpaint sends a tingling down our spines before our minds know what is happening, before our intimidated intellect analyses its assault and appearance. Yet of course the intellect and that means here usually an intellectual cannot grasp the abting that was always already the before the advent of the intellect operating outside of intellectual initiation and even outside of intellectual-intuition. Bacon frustrates and annoys the intellectual (art critic) who hates to be assaulted by the abject that-thus operates outside of intellectual-analysis and intellectual-assassination and just cannot grasp-to-grip paint-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself; and so again resort to inane intellectual narrative (descriptive) readings being a foulplay strategy-tactic to avoid the abpaint at all costs. For Bacon’s paint is the abpaint that thus is the abimage that then initiates-instigates the sublime-shudder. The shudder is a mindless experience as a dissonance of dread Dasein, our-bare-being-there, as the naked-nerves, as the musical-muscle: With Bacon, we hear the abpaint with the body before we see the abpaint with our eyes; but we do not see that abpaint with the empirical-eyes but rather with those extra-empirical eyes; as well as the eyes of the body which are the ears and the mouth, which are the penis and the vagina, and, not forgetting: the nostrils, and which always see much more clearly than our eyes that are blind to the abject and the abjected; and thus the abpaint as the abjected abject, touches us and moves us musically, muscularly; Bacon’s abpaint is so profoundly: musical despite Bacon himself not being: musical, not having a musical ear. The thrown or abjected abpaint assimilates itself with the primal-memory of the wounded-body, that is: the fucked-body: to fuck is to wound and to wound is to abject being ahead of itself where painting or fucking are of that exacting economy of our abjecting-ahead of ourselves outside ourselves outside our bodies becoming an abeing-abimage primordial-presentation of our-original dripping-dasein: In the beginning we were wet. In the beginning we were water. In the beginning we were leaking liquid. In the beginning we were dripping dasein. In the beginning was the paint.

The primal-shudder of the abimaged-abpaint produces the abject-sublime. Bacon’s brave and bravura abpaint has ontological analogies to the real being of classical music making sounds out of silences or silences out of sounds and by both being non-illustrational and figurative because classical music is non-abstract which is why we can identify with it in an instant instinctively unlike abstract painting which is necessarily non-identifiable because the human-being and the animal-being and the alien-being are non-abstract: We are not abstract whatever we are aberrating. Bacon’s terrorist-technique disseminates a dasein-dread as well as an abaesthetic desire to return to our originary primordial-being: our reptilian being and our animal-being as we all were well before our initiation (interpellation) into the invention of the being-human revealing our being-animal revealing our being-alien: Bacon rightly reveals us to be non-human animals after-all uncannily akin to those animal-beings done by Degas and Picasso who rawly recorded women being wild animals (attuning and attaining to our primordial ‘animal condition); women’ are attuned to being animal (being true); whilst men’ are attuned to being human (being lie) which is the evil of being because to be human is to be evil; Bacon being a woman-man was: the true-lie of the evil-good’. For Bacon, being a woman-man was cross-dressing the true with the lie’, cross-dressing the evil’ with the good’; cross-dressing the eviling Dasein with the goodling Dasein; but meeting Bacon: in the flesh’ one was never really aware of Bacon being’ either man’ or woman’; rather, there was definitely something so strangely non-human’ about Bacon but who was able to act at: being human.






                                                                                                                         Detail from centre panel of Francis Bacon’s ‘Triptych’ inspired by TS Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ (1967)






Sublime-Shudder of Primordial-Paint 


Paint is Being. But very few painters allow paint to be or can make paint be. Most painters negate the being of the paint which is why they are not painters of paint: they wish to hide the actual living being of the paint as if they had painted without paint. Many painters maybe called painters but they do not know the paint as being that paints as the being of the paint being the paint-in-itself-for-itself. Paint is presentation. Paint presents. But most painters today make representations through non-painting negating the painterly being of the paint to speak for itself as itself in itself for itself. Bacon began painting in 1960 and ended painting in 1970 and by painting we mean where the paint is image in itself for itself. The abthink’ of Sartre is identical to the ‘abpaint’ of Bacon so understanding of either comes from understand both as being-action in the world where idea and image are actions, where paint and think are actions acted upon as material-manifestations of being where words and paints are always already actions of presentation as a pulsating pure presence. Bacons abpaint does not represent reality rather Bacon s paint presents reality: is real is the real as paint-being-in-itself-for-itself: as the paint-being is a primary-originary ontology: Titian, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Hals, Turner, Constable, Van Gogh, Corinth, Sargent, Nolde, Soutine, Bacon activated the actual real being of oil-paint as paint-dasein as ontological-paint which is why their paint is always so afresh and alive and looks like it has just been painted: now. To paint means to paint the now to be now means to paint now forever now for what is painted is now as the now of the paint always now just now right now. And the now knows of no time, just as abpaint knows of no time, just as abart knows of no time, just as the artist knows no time. Very few painters know how to make paint now. That is to allow paint to be always already now before and after all other nows whilst being now before the now to come, before the now to go, appearing painted: right now. Sanitary Saville cannot make the paint: survive long enough: to be now, right now, as: just having been painted: right now as Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Bacon could.

Bacon’s paint releases the primal-shudder of the abject-sublime. The paint activates a shudder sensation directly to the nervous system bypassing the intellect. The abpaint sends a tingling down our spines before our minds know what is happening, before our intellect analyses and grasps any object. The primordial-shudder is a mindless-sensation as the dread-dissonance of Dasein, being-here, as the music of-as music of muscle: we hear the paint with the body and the abpaint taunts us us musically, muscularly, treats us musically, muscularly, tweaks us musically, muscularly The abpaint assimilates itself with the primal-memory of the wounded-body which was of our being born. Surprisingly, Saville’s paint, in theory, should send a shudder down your spine of dasein but does not since Saville’s paint is: too nice: sterile, antiseptic, hygienic, clinical; that is: it is non-ontological.

Paint presences. Paint presences being. Paint presences being present. Paint presents the presences of being as being-present. Paint does not represent. Paint does not represent anything. Paint does not represent anybeing. To make paint represent is not to paint. Paint is always already paint-being-for-itself as being present as itself as being paint. To paint means to be. To paint means to be present. But most who nominate themselves as painters do never in fact paint per se as such, as the economy of representation is necessarily a negation of the paint as painting-for-itself as itself-is where the representations are the ruination of the being of the abpaint as it is in itself no longer allowed to be itself. Representation and Illustration are the arch-enemies of Art for art as being is that which is always already primordial-presentation originating before the invention of illustration that is the human for what is illustrated is the always human’, as that human that says: I am only human; that which in fact doe not exit; which is why your insipid and insidious interpellation into your literal-likeness is your literal-lie, if you like, or dont like. Degas, Sickert, Soutine, Picasso and Bacon were utterly unique in knowing we were not: only human but: only animal; so presented us in our primordial-profuse:animal condition.

Painting is always necessarily, and so importantly, a kind of non-intellectualist conception of action because the painter must paint without consciousness in the sense that the painter and sculptor does not know and cannot know consciously what they do; if they do, however, that are no longer painters or sculptors but inane illustrators ‘illustrating some conceptual idea which is always alien to painting and sculpting which is not: thinking. Bacon always worked in a dense fog, a thick cloud of sensations when painting not knowing how to do it or what would happen and that is what is so fresh, so alive, so immediate. The painter always begins and ends without thinking; thinking is solely for contrived conceptual art and conceptual art is far too conscious, too contrived, too thought out. As the Unthought, Painting is a non-intellectualist action initiated in a: smog of sensations. The economy of painting is so utterly other to the economy of thinking just as the economy of writing is so utterly other to the economy of painting which is why there can be no writing on painting, and which is why we cannot have that thing of art writing’: Or: as Francis Bacon correctly observed to Jean Clair in August, 1991: “You can’t talk about painting because talking or writing and painting are two different ... it’s another language, isn’t it?”






                                                                                                                                                 A dreadful detail of Figure with Two Owls, Study after Velasquez (1963)







Paint as Mood


Paint is Mood. Paint is moody. Paint has moods. Bacon could be in a bad mood before painting and when painting. Bacon paints moods more than anythingelse more than anybeingelse. Bacon is the painter of moods. Bacon was after all, extremely moody and could change moods in a split second. This makes Bacon Heideggerian to the core. Bacons moods of painting are those three Heideggerian moods: from boredom, to anxiety, to dread; for through boredom, anxiety and dread Bacon is able to operate outside of himself and outside of conscious awareness which is so lazily and easily interpellated into literal illustration. Boredom, anxiety and dread throw us out of ourselves where we are not there anymore abjected ahead of ourselves aiming ahead at the extra-empirical of non-illustrational forms where vision is no longer that of sight but that of sein that of being as the vision of being is not the vision of the empirical eye but the extra empirical unseen by the seen eye of inane illustration that so lazily interpellates the They into assuming what appearance is. Profound boredom or radical anxiety initiate-instigate Bacon to take risks to throw chance to do anything other than the illustrational which is necessarily conservative and so antithetical to invention to reinventing realism which was Bacon was after after-all. Boredom and anxiety released Bacon from the constraints of consciousness of being self-conscious into being without conscious control as in boredom or in anxiety we are a non-conscious jettisoned-jouissance abjected ahead of Dasein arriving at the Real in Itself: there is no such thing, or rather, no such being, as: the Unconscious; rather there is: an Abconscious from which an abart is abjected ahead heading over toward you after you.

Bacon paints Paint as paint presencing the being of paint as a pure-presence of immediate-sensation by passing representation and so does not represent but presents paint-being as being-in-itself-for-itself aimed at an other who identifies with that otherness of the paint which is nothing but being paint in itself for itself as other and as other paint is the shudder as the primordial-shudder of being alien to the human which is what when we identify with the thrown-paint we are identifying with the alien-other which is the sight-site of seeing the other than ‘the human’; for the condition of the paint in Bacon is of the alien condition, utterly alien to the human condition which is out of condition for there is no human condition and the alien-abpaint of Bacon reveals that there never was a ‘human condition’; and the throwing of the alien-abpaint reveals the abmeaning of the abpaint in the ablanding of the paint where the paint-semen strikes the canvas-skin revealing streaking-being as blobs of beings steaming being-there. We will identify with these white-wads of whipped double-cream paint without really knowing why for they give us a shudder whilst also wetting our alluring abysmal appetites for desiring dread-dasein which is, after-all, the abject-sublime. Bacon’s brave-bravura art-brut raw-abpaint thrown-there is an actual-real revelation of the Real there: The Real, that is, the There, is that which cannot ever be written about, only thrown about, only being about, because writing was always already the: instead-of the Real.








                                                                               Francis Bacon, Study for Self-Portrait, 1963                                                                                                           Francis Bacon, George Dyer Talking, 1966







Bacons paint is originary pleasure.


It is not possible to make preparatory drawings for the accident-chance enhanced nonillustrational way Bacon handled oil-paints: stabbing, smearing, brushing, throwing; there simply would be no logic in making drawings as preparations or rehearsals for Bacon’s unprepared or unrehearsed paintings. Drawing is largely the pencilled-in-practice of consciously knowing-what-you-are-doing whilst painting for Bacon is the subconsciously not knowing what you are doing. Bacon had such a dreadfully diversely versatile vocabulary of painting performativities that one cannot say that Bacon had a technique as such, rather, Bacon had styles, Bacon had constellations of infinite ways in which to make the paint live as being for itself; Bacon always wanted the paint to have an immediate living freshness about it, a vibration, a pulsation, a sensation, through a Baconian-Heideggerian thrusted throwness: the art of the economy of the throw is the known of the thrown’ in the ordering of the handing of the knowing of the throwing of the flying of the landing as an: ordered accident’.  

Bacons paint is pleasure. Bacons paint is in pleasure. Bacons paint as pleasure. As a pure pleasure. But a primal pleasure that has both an ontic-identification and a psychic-identification in us which abstract painting cannot have because in abstract painting there is no identifying point of ontic-identification or psychic-identification because we are not abstract that is we are not decoration and abstract art is decoration on dasein not dasein in itself as itself as it is. Bacons paint comes-off as pure-pleasure as being-in-pleasure as paint for paints sake as pleasure for pleasures sake for the pleasure of the paint for the the paint of the pleasure. Bacons paint is a pleasure. As an attaining and as an attuning to absolute-jouissance where the image of pleasure is attained and attuned in an abpaint as pure pleasure, as pure being, as the Real, attained to in the pleasure of paint, as the eternal-return of the coming-off of pure-jouissance where the wet-paint of ejaculated-pleasure is eternally-preserved as the instant-image of eternal-pleasure: Yet what both the Them and the They inanely nominate as horrifying and terrifying, and, as menacing and suffering, in Bacon is simply the abject-sublime abpleasure of the paint as an attained-attuned absolute-jouissance which is the Real-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself as a pure-presentation of abpleasure-abpaint. Bacon presents. Bacon represents nothing. There is no: representational painting’ since paint is and only is: primal presentation’, as: paint-painting-itself’ presenting itself as: paint’.






                                                                                                                                                     Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 – 1806, Young Girl Reading, c. 1770






Radical Fragonard, Reactionary Saville


Fragonards paint is pure pleasure. Fragonards paint is pure-jouissance. Always fresh. Always fast. For Fragonard, like for Bacon, the paint has to be fresh and fast like for Sargent the paint has to be fresh and fast like for Corinth and it is this fastness freshness of its nowness that makes the paint so immediate so now and so timeless and thus non-illustration because the now of the timeless operates outside of illustration. Fragonard could paint the ear in a non-illustrational manner and an eye in a non-illustrational manner yet Saville cannot. Thus: Fragonard is far more modern than Saville which makes an absurdity of the so-called ‘history of art’ revealing that art has no history as such. Fragonard is far more radical than Freud because Freud, like Saville, still remained rigidly ‘interpellated in that regressive retardation of illustration. Bacon and Fragonard would exhibit well together just like Bacon and Jawlensky would exhibit well together just like Bacon and Picasso would exhibit well together. But Bacon and Matisse would not exhibit well together; just like Bacon and Giacometti would not exhibit well together as they are so ontologically poles apart thus antithetical to one another. Yet Bacon gets coupled (con)fused with Giacometti; just like Bacon gets coupled (con)fused with Becket due to some sort of supposed-assumed existential’ entrenchment and entwinement; so thus, ontoaesthetically speaking, Alberto Giacometti does not go with Bacon so thus, onto aesthetically speaking Bacon does go with Umberto Boccioni.

For Bacon the paint has to be fresh in order to be at all. Ergo, the freshness is its being-ness wet-ness whereby the ontological-otherness of the ‘paint-being’ is the paint ‘in-itself-for-itself’ (Sartre). The question of paint for Bacon is to be or not to be paint and to be paint is to paint outside of illustration, a form that lacks being for Bacon. Bacons paint works most when it is fresh most and moist most; Freuds paint does not have a Dasein because it is far too dry s a result of being far too mannered and too laboured, too heavy, too turgid. Savilles Paint, Freuds Paint, Kossoffs Paint, Auerbachs Paint tastes far too dry to come into Being and thus cannot come to be lacking-leaking those wet-wound jouisance juices that initiate-instigate paint to-come to-be by being-wet we witness with: Rembrandt, Sargent, Monet, Marquet, Corinth, Soutine, Bacon. Bacon, just like Rembrandt knew very well that the paint has to remain wet with instant-immediacy in order to shine-sein, t0 glint-geist. Rosetta II 2005 by Saville is pure pastiche painting pretending to be painted with its carefully calculated and contained drips and dashes with a sort of static spontaneity where all is contained and controlled within the contours of illustration with eyes and the nose and the mouth illustrated and not painted. Why is Saville so enslaved to illustration? Fragonard was far more radical than Saville yet again showing to us all just how absurdly nonsensical the (mis)conception of art history really is; because 18th century portraitists were far more modern than 21st century portraitists, apart from that poignant Pang. Sick Sickerts sket ‘scrubbers were much more aesthetically advanced (radically realised) than salami Savilles photo-shops (processed) pork chops.






                                                                                                         Bacon’s Paint: The Thrown Presence of the Real: A detail from the right-hand panel of Three Figures in a Room 1964





Paint is


Paint is Naked. Paint is non-narrative. Paint is non-linear. Paint is ahistorical. Paint is atemporal. Paint is now. The raw rude nude paint manifests mindfully an essence of appearance as a pure-presence presenting the pulsations of the person outside of illustration where what is presented cannot be read in a literal way but in a primordial way where our body reads the sensations of the paint through its own sensationing; so thus identifying with the ripe otherness of the paint as a sort of primordial mirror-image of itself before the becoming of our identifying  as being-human for Bacons primal paint is our being before the human which is why there is no such thing as the human condition (whatever that maybe) in Bacons paint which is utterly other than being human. The I of the human cannot identify with the eye of the alien condition of abpaint and thus for Bacon there is no human condition and yet the art critic, being human, cannot see this alien abimagery of Bacon by always assuming that-they them-that are all human; for, after all, before all, after all that, the art critic is: only human, after all, after none, before none: for: none have, after all, before all, between all, next to all, ever: ‘come across’ an: alien art critic’, as it were, as it was, as it is, as such, at the end of the day, at the end of the night.

Paint is Will. Paint wills. Paint leaves its Will. Paint paints its Will. Paint plants its Will. The painter has to Will the Will of the Paint and to Do this the painter has to Will to lose the Will of the painter in order to order and ordain the Will of the Paint to be Will and this Will is its Being as a will-to-power as a will-to-paint as paint-being-in-itself-for-itself whilst recognisable as identifiable yet identified as otherwise than being-human for being-paint is being alien. Bacon wanted to reinvent realism through the being of paint. Bacon wanted ‘to get the essence’ of our being that is alien to the literal-likeness of the being-human (that is what we are not after-all). For Bacon the paint is the Lacanian ‘real’ where the reality of the paint is the very tough, raw roughness of being otherwise to the human that had never ever even ever come to being, come into being, come off to being, to begin with, to end with, to start with, to wade with, to wed with, as it wet, as it what, as it when, as it with, as it were, as it was, as it is, as it maybe, as it could be, as it would be, as it will be, as it was be, as it is be, as is it be, as is be.

Bacon paints our primordial ‘reptilian condition’ and not an ahistorical ‘human condition’. Indeed: writers, commentators and critics of Bacon constantly, repetitiously, and inanely use the banal cliché of the ‘human condition’ as being the ‘meaning’ of Bacon’s abimagery; in point of fact, the actual abworks of Bacon, in being-in-and-for-themselves desiccate the classical, pictorial image of ‘the human’ and deracinate us from our foible fuck of futile fuckness: Bacon was a ripe reptile, alien-to-the-human but played-the-human dressing-up to look human, dressing down to look human, where ‘the human art critic’ mistook Bacon for being just: only human.






                                                                                                                 Bacon’s Paint: All the Pulsations of a Person: A detail from the left-hand panel of Three Figures in a Room 1964





Symphonic Sound (bites) heard in Bacons Paint


Bacon’s paint has to be heard live in concert and not in reproductions to be really felt so understood just as symphonies have to be heard live in concert and not in recordings to be really felt so understood: the living presence of the paint akin to the living presence of the sound has to be experienced in the flesh to get that raw and visceral intensity and immediacy of which our watered-down and anesthetised reproductions and recordings can never ever achieve. Listening to Vaughan Williams 6th Symphony intensely conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen made one realise just how close the orchestration and composition is to the paint orchestrated and composed by Bacon in the mid 1940 to the mid 1950s. Indeed: Bacon is far closer to composers such as Britten, Walton, and Vaughan Williams than to the contemporary composers so often associated with Bacon. For when we watch documentaries on Francis Bacon they are often accompanied by composers such as Elisabeth Lutyens and Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez. Vaughan Williams 4th Symphony (1935) and Vaughan Williams 6th Symphony (1944) both sound uncannily like Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) in their monstrously menacing moodings of dread dissonances; hear-here Francis Bacon shared this same organismal orchestral pulse palette as Vaughan-Williams. Understanding Bacon comes to us not in words but in sounds as we come far closer to Understanding Bacon by listening to Britten, Walton and Vaughan Williams.

Paint is in Sound. What does Bacons paint sound like? Bacons paint sounds like no other painters paint. Bacons paint sounds: grainy, gritty; metallic, mainly percussive, timpani, bass-drum, but also composed of a large string section; throbbing double basses; a carpet of strings; and pointed shrill woodwinds; a full symphony orchestra sounding Wagnerian and Mahlerian, sounding Brucknerian and Straussian, as well as Berg, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Shostakovich. The timpani thwacks and timpani thuds are those Dark Ovid discs we hear nailing the form firmly as those grinding-grounding dreadful-devices that hold-hard; gravitational pulls, sucking you in, holding you down as heard in Study of Portrait of P.L. from Photographs (1963) which was one of Bacon’s greatest paintings but tragically destroyed the artist; for this abimage marked Bacon at the pinnacle of his career.

Being is disclosed to us in paint-being-in-itself-for-itself that is at the same time at the same being image-being-in-itself-for-itself where paint and image are one as a unity of a revelation of being-abimage as being-abpaint where the image is the paint and the paint is the image as image-being-paint as paint-being-image and this is the genius of Bacon who was only able to paint-image image-paint in this utterly unique way between1960 and 1970. Of course we know very well that there are some paintings before 1960such as the Man in Blue seriesthat have this unification of abimage-paint as abpaint-image; but Bacons utterly unique and suave seductive Style had not yet: arrived. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) is an abimage more than it is an abpainting; for the abimage here is much more interesting than the paint of which it is painted in with.

Bacons Style emerges in 1963 as it is materially manifest in Study for Portrait of P.L. from photographs (1963) where the black-disc body-blow paint-punctuations produce primordial sounds which are aurally close to the sounds created by Schoenberg, Berg, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Pettersson to name the obvious where those dark stabs have the sensation of timpani and percussion where we can hear the primordial sounds of the paint coming through because Bacon was a profoundly musical painter as a composer of paint soundscapes despite himself openly admitting to Michel Archimbaud of not really having a musical ear. Like  Study for Portrait of P.L. from photographs (1963), Figure with Two Owls, Study after Velázquez (1963) displays these dark-discs that are actually timpani thwacks nailing the form, nailing the subject, suturing the subject into the sound of timpani and these dark-discs are also black-holes activating a gravitational-pull, as a sucking-in, suturing of self to sound; and so we hear these abpaintings as well as see them. In 1963/64 Bacon was painting at his moist musical.

Bacon is an orchestral composer of the economy of paint never over-orchestrating the paint like Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff do where the paint is far too congested and claustrophobic and heavy textured thus losing its dasein altogether for the paint cannot come into being because the paint has not been allowed to be for Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff do not know how to let the paint be in itself to breathe for itself as they work on it to death by negating the paint altogether where there is no immediacy of the paint but rather a mannered muddy turgid ploughing of the paint as a sort of a sexual assault on the paint, as a sort of monstrous molestation of the paint.






                                                                                                                                                                             Figure with Two Owls, Study after Velasquez (1963)






Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Glenn Brown, Ruben Pang: Painting Outside of Time, Painting Outside of Illustration 


When paint becomes illustration it becomes dead and so non-ontological as well as non-psychological as we witness with the inane-illustration of Freud, Saville or Hockney where the paint has no life of its own because it cannot come to live on its own because the abpaint has not come into being in the first place despite pertaining and pretending to-be da-sein there is no abpaint-being-there; so therefore there is no being-there of the paint-there and we tragically witness that paint-not-being-there in Bacons late nonpainted paintings where-there is no abpaint-being-there any-more simply because: there is no Bacon being-there anymore; for Bacon actually died in 1972. Bacon’s Study of a Bull (1991) was not his last painting but, rather, his last non-paining as painting at an end, as life at an end: Bacon was already long dead when non-painting last Bull: Study of a Bull is a study for as a rehearsal for the End of Painting that refuses to come to an end; that cannot paint the end of painting that cannot end. Glenn Brown presents to us painting before the end of painting as a painting after the end of painting. Glenn Brown illustrates the wet History of Western Painting without ever illustrating the wet History of Western Painting where the dead painters of the past become the living painters of the present as the history of the past made present made future. Why is it today, especially today, that so-called dead painters paintings are so much more alive than the paintings of so-called living painters? Is it because painters today have no Dasein? So why are living painters like Bevan, Doig, Dumas, Hockney, Kiefer, Nara, Ofili, Saville so adead whilst deading painters like: Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Fragonard, Goya, Van Gogh, Bacon, so alive?

Paint cannot be-known only thrown, stabbed, slashed, smeared, streaked saved in a state of pure-being as being-paint and nothing but a being-paint as paint-alone all alone as if it had a life of its own as Bacon stated for paint does have a life of its own owned by the paint alone and as a painted you have to let the paint be just as a sculptor you have to let the clay be and interfere with it as little as possible where the less you do the better which is why the more you work on the paint the more you murder the paint as we witness in wetless Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff where the laboriously-layered paint is a congested-congealed murky, mannered, muddiness, unable to breath unable to pulsate for the paint has no pulse to be. Glenn Brown has a genie-genius to redo-undo this laboriously-layered cowpat-paint propagated by Auerbach in his Auerbach homage-pastiches. Glenn Brown illustrates and illuminates the paint present and past masters without invoking illustration which is rare for our contemporary realists; glorious Glenn Brown has a gracious genius of painting the past-time as the present-time and yet all-the-time-not-in-time. Therefore, in the future, Glenn Brown should be auctioned in Sotheby’s, and Christie’s, Old Master auctions, and not in their: Contemporary Art auctions, because Glenn Brown is not a conemporary artist’. Sotheby’s British Art: The Jubilee Auction (London: 29th June, 2022) was a remarkably refreshing rethink with: Turner, Constable, Gainsborough being auctioned alongside: Burra, Bacon, Bansky.

To paint is the was of the always already been painted, had been done, had been painted always already yet as already always afresh as abfresh as the that just having-been-painted-there-just-then and then just now then at any moment now just now just then just where the was  became the is which is why painting ontologically speaking is already always timeless already always wet where aborigin of abpainting has happened as the primordial eternal return of that paint coming back all over again that has always already come to be done, already always the done, just done now, done to come, just come-into-being-paint, just coming-into-painting-being just the painting of the coming of being-painted just being-paint-there. Glenn Brown, unlike Jenny Saville, paints outside of illustration whilst paradoxically illustrating paint with out illustrating the paint thus we have a living-deading ontology of paint utterly unique in portraiture. Gleaming Glenn Brown clearly-ambiguously comes both just before Frank Auerbach then and just after Frank Auerbach then being both before-being and after-being yet not being nothing at all then. Glenn Brown plays Freuds fort-da game in order to pull-apart the myth of art history by throwing-retrieving-the-time-past-to-the-time-present throwing-the-time-back-retrieving-time-past. Glenn Brown concentrates time, consolidates time, where the past is always already contemporary radically realising that the past is never done with, never past but already always present in the now.

 In Head of J.Y.M. II, 1984-85, Frank Auerbach operates outside of illustration, operates outside of time, akin to Bacon and Brown, where the past and the present as the future are rawly recorded welded within the ever-lasting eternal-now such is the presence of their paint; even more remarkable in Brown who invokes illustration initiations without ever falling into illustration, as we witness with the dryness of Saville, who has no time for paint having no time now to paint since there is no presence in Saville because there is no wetness of presenceness there in Saville; yet with Bacon, Brown and Auerbach we witness the wetness of the paint even if brocade Brown paradoxically comes across as looking like dry paint it is ontologically wet with time now since the now is always the wet which never dries out whilst with Freud the paint is never wet but dried out died out as congested as congealed collapsed time. The genuine genius of Glenn Brown is exquisitely executed within the economy of juxtaposition where Brown can be exhibited alongside Velázquez, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Auerbach and Bacon feeling utterly at home with each one of them. Burnished Brown remains well welded wet within time so thus never dries up over time always being wet in time with other artists whilst at the same time, being out of time all the time by not being in on time. Velázquez, Rembrandt, Turner are the only (ontologically) living painters to always actually be contemporary; for there are not any other contemporary painters living today.




The Economy of Juxtaposition


Yet as a rule, on the whole, artworks, being abartworks, are abject, are abjected, all-alone-in-the-world-out-the-world-out-of-the-world, not being at home in this world preferring to be left alone out of this world being left all alone on their own. Artworks, being antisocial and autistic, are not people persons as an artwork is not a people person. Artworks despise and detest people. So artworks do not like being exhibited alongside other artworks as artworks have nothing to say to one another as artworks have nothing in common with one another. So very rarely do artworks work being hung together when juxtaposed together, exhibited together which is why the Royal Academy Summer Show does such sadistic violence to artworks by cramming them all in together, bunged up on top of each other; tightly herded-in for the hard-sell, once reviewed by Waldemar Januszczak:


“Edvard Munch, the notorious painter of The Scream, said something very true when he grumbled: “The things that destroy modem art are large exhibitions and huge art emporiums.” I wonder if he had the Royal Academy’s summer show in mind? Or an event just like it? Either way, he was right.  This year’s event is the academy’s 242nd attempt to destroy art by attempting to pass off its annual farrago as a good thing.

I’m sure you know the specious arguments employed recurrently in its defence. It’s fun. It’s anti-elitist. It’s an opportunity for the man on the street to show his work alongside the finest artists in the land. All of which is bunkum. The uncomfortable truth is that the summer show is a money-making exercise for the academy, in which the poor amateur is treated with total disdain, perhaps even cruelty. While the academicians themselves divvy up the best spaces, everyone else is crammed into overcrowded enclosures that make the enjoyment of art impossible.

This isn’t an hour in the sun, it’s an hour in a sardine tin. The general standard is, in any case, pitiful. And the annual attempt to jazz it all up by adding Tracey Emin to the mix, is, frankly, desperate. In the tiny Small Weston Room, into which the most unfortunate of the amateurs have been most brutally herded, I failed to spot a single picture that could be said to have stood out in the melee. It was like trying to identify a tadpole. Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap is a workable strategy when selling socks from Taiwan, but as a way of displaying art, it is positively barbaric and all can see what a cattle market it is.”

Waldemar Januszczak, This ugly old beast wants putting down, Art, The Sunday Times, June 13, 2010.


Whilst Michael Peppiatt is arguably an excellent curator certain artists just do not go together, just do not work together,  just do not belong together; such as Francis Bacon with Alberto Giacometti, such as Frank Auerbach with Tony Bevan. Here the economy of juxtaposition uncannily exposes the awkward alienation at work here since Bacon and Giacometti are so utterly at odds with each other ontologically, temporarily and aesthetically just as Frank Auerbach and Tony Bevan are so utterly at odds with each other ontologically, temporarily, and aesthetically. Such ‘juxtapositioning’ in exhibitions unwittingly exposes the bland-weak aesthetic poverty of  and Bevan and Giacometti: just juxtapose Giacometti with Rodin, just juxtapose Giacometti with Daumier, just juxtapose Giacometti with Gaudier-Brezska, just juxtapose Giacometti with Boccioni, just juxtapose Giacometti with Arp, just juxtapose Giacometti with Brancusi, just juxtapose Giacometti with Hepworth, just juxtapose Giacometti with Moore and we will all ‘immediately’ see just how so dreadfully atrocious Giacometti really was as a sculptor. Strangely still, but maybe not so strange at all, is that the sulphurous sculptures of Giacometti only really work, and come alive, when they are exhibited on-their-own, as all alone, in intimate solitary confinement.

Bacon does not get on with Giacometti, just as Auerbach does not get on with Bevan. And Bacon does not get on with Moore and yet Bacon does get on with Sutherland because Sutherland, like Velázquez and Bacon, operates on the tightrope edge between illustration and the real which is rather rare. Exhibiting Bacon juxtaposed with Sutherland makes perfect sense ontologically and aesthetically despite their differences in dealing with their realisms; and, surprisingly still, Bacon would hang-well with the unfashionable Bernard Buffet, Bacon would hang-well with the unfashionable Edward Burra, Bacon would hang-well with the unfashionable Wyndham Lewis, Bacon would hang-well with the unfashionable Alexej von Jawlensky; of whom: Alloway, Berger, Fuller, Foster, Danto, Gowing, Greenberg, Krauss, Peppiatt, Rosenberg, Sontag, Sylvester, all astonishingly avoided.

But Bevan is an awfully bad illustrator; an appallingly bad illustrator of art who illustrates heads and faces in an extremely crude cartoonish way and so one wonders why Bevan is even accepted as an artist today; one is simply dumbfounded why a total non-entity like bland Bevan could even be exhibited juxtaposed with Auerbach who is arguably our greatest living painter. Bacon and Auerbach can be exhibited juxtaposed together because they are economically-ontologically belonging together just as Bacon and Jawlensky are economically-ontologically belonging together. And the unusual and unpredictable economy of juxtaposition operates in a non-logical (or a non-historical) way because Bacon could be juxtaposed with Vermeer if carefully curated; just as Bacon could be juxtaposed with Fragonard if carefully curated: but curators today do not have the insight or imagination to do this largely because they do not have any instinct about art like David Sylvester (whose sycophantic eulogising obituaries were far longer than artists’ obituaries which says so much about our veneration of the art critic ‘above’ the artist. Sylvester stating: Newman, Pollock, de Kooning, Johns, and Twombly were greater painters than Bacon was simply so stupid; and unwittingly revealing an ‘autistic-aesthetic’ retardation.

Another painter who would work well being juxtaposed alongside Bacon is Edward Hopper yet in theory this may seem absurd, may sound absurd my seen absurd, yet on a spatial-temporal ontological-level they are akin and so would actually pair well together. Yet another painter who would work well juxtaposed with Bacon is Vermeer, who is also similar to Hopper on a spatial-temporal economic-dynamic, as it were, as it was, as it is: now; as Bacon, Hopper and Vermeer are trenchantly timeless ontologically speaking, ontologically sensing, and so Bacon, Hopper or Vermeer do not obligatory obey the ‘ontic time’ of ‘art history’ let alone ‘art theory’; the cliché about artworks as being timeless is a true cliché because the cliché is the origin of the true. To speak in clichés is to speak in truths and artworks are the clichés of the true that speak truths to the lies and insidious illusions of our ‘being human’. The art of juxtaposition, immediately without question, ‘deconstructs’, dismantles: ‘the time of art to the no time at all’ revealing the absolute impossibility of ‘art history’, as revealed by William Feaver:


TO PUT Van Gogh’s Yellow Chair with Pipe next to Michelangelo’s The Entombment would be bad housekeeping, in National Gallery terms, but Francis Bacon doing so is a brilliant exercise of The Artist’s Eye.

Putting Masaccio’s Madonna and Child, once the centre panel of an altarpiece in the Carmelite Church in Pisa, between Van Gogh’s Chair and Seurat’s Baignade is equally audacious. Who would have anticipated such illuminating harmonies among such disparate paintings Not even Bacon, apparently, for these new triptychs, so to speak, only came together on the last day of the installation.

It’s easy enough to spot symbolic and formal affinities by shuffling National Gallery postcards. Regrouping the originals outside their usual Schools and eras, is a different matter. Disparities of scale and handling, as well as subject-matter, make for difficulties. The chance to juxtapose paintings normally kept apart has been given to few so far and Bacon is the first to let the paintings speak for themselves without even an example of his own work introduced to speak for him. The National Gallery has done its best to restore the element of artistic personality cult by posting blown up photographs of Bacon in the foyer. These can be ignored.

On one wall the suppleness of the Rokeby Venus (studying herself, Beauty incarnate, askew in the mirror) adjoins the weightiness of Degas’s Woman Drying Herself. That bared back mediates between the worldly and the severity of the Michelangelo. The Entombment, being incomplete and damaged too  one mourner a blank and various limbs and drapes unrealised  is sustained (much as the two figures support the dead Christ) by the Degas and the Van Gogh on either side. It is echoed, on the wall opposite, by the fragments of Manet’s Execution of Maximilian, reassembled for Howard Hodgkin’s Artist’s Eye six years ago. Plush Mme Moitessier, so perfectly intact, is placed in the position of being the butt of the firing squad in the mutilated Manet.

Bacon’s ‘Artist’s Eye gives great paintings (there are also two Rembrandts, another Velazquez and a Goya) a chance to shine in exalted company. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed is the only picture that, in these circumstances, looks expendable.”   (William Feaver, Bacon hangs his favourites, Art, The Observer, November, 24, 1985).





                                                                                                                                                                                          Willem de Kooning, Head Three, 1973





Arse About Face: Alberto Giacometti & Willem de Kooning


Alberto Giacometti was an excellent draughtsman but was a dreadfully awful sculptor. Willem de Kooning was an excellent sculptor but was a dreadfully awful painter. So why did arcane art historians and art critics get it all: arse about face? For de Kooning is considered primarily as a painter and Giacometti is considered primarily as a sculptor: what has gone so topsy-turvy here? For it is palatably, incontestably, obvious that Giacometti could not sculpt. For it is palatably, incontestably, obvious that de Kooning could not paint. Willem de Kooning was an incredibly inventive sculptor. Giacometti was an incredibly incisive draughtsman: yet both are still largely known for what they are so incredibly bad at; and this is largely the fault of those arsehole art critics (and curators) who dont know shit and always get things arse about face; or, is it, more arsely, arse about faeces? For Willem de Kooning could not paint: de Kooning could not manipulate paint: and it always shows. For de Kooning was alien to paint. Alberto Giacometti could not sculpt. Giacometti could not manipulate clay: and it always shows. For Giacometti was alien to clay. But, of course, privately, the art critic knows only too well that Alberto Giacometti cannot sculpt. But, of course, privately, the art critic knows only too well that Willem de Kooning cannot paint. You must now all turn face about arse and begin to recognise Alberto Giacometti as a draughtsman, and entirely as a draughtsman. You must now all turn face about arse and begin to recognise Willem de Kooning as: a sculptor, and, entirely, just as: a sculptor. You must repeat after me the following: Willem de Kooning was not a painter, Willem de Kooning was not a painter, Willem de Kooning was not a painter.






                                                                                                                                                                                                Alberto Giacometti, Self-Portrait, pencil on paper, 1935    





Juxtaposition with Justice


There would be jubilate justice in juxtaposing Rachel Whiteread with Francis Bacon because both broach the trace of the ghost as the haunting of the human and the hunting of the human in a ruined condition as being in ruins as being as ruins as the trace of the ruin at the aftermath of the unhousing of the human where there is no one at home at the human; Whiteread and Bacon are not concerned with the human condition; that is, the condition that the human is in but rather the condition that the human is out: the human-out-of-condition. One can only bear witness Whiteread in the flesh and not in reproduction; likewise, one can only bear witness to Francis Bacon in the felsh and not in reproduction: The texturized-traumatized non-textual tangy-textures of Bacon and of Whiteread rightly refuse to be read with the eye in reproductions; even when: reproduced with permission. Rather: You have to go there where they are at and only then can you be invited and initiated into their habitats of the hunted human and the haunted human: Internal Objects at the Gagosian tracks traces of Francis Bacon fermented and furloughed in Rachel Whiteread: Untitled (Crinkle Crackle) 2018, and Untitled (Snow) 2019, are after the Pope has left the Throne where the left curtains become the traces left; the remainder and the reminder of beings past: reproductions of Untitled (Crinkle Crackle) 2018 and Untitled (Snow) 2019 do not do justice to their traumatised textures; thus the textures of the traumas in Doppelgänger, 2020–2021 have to be witnessed whitewashed whitenessed; for: Whiteread, and Bacon, the human: is out of condition, out of order, out of use; all-used-up, finished-off, polished-off; done-over, done-in; done-for-good, done-for-god.





Juxtaposition without Justice


There is no aesthetic justice today: Tracey Emin juxtaposed with Edvard Munch, Tracey Emin juxtaposed with Egon Schiele and our uncritical critics went welcomingly along with this injustice by justifying the juxtapositions yet those that are not trained as art critics will automatically attune to the abysmal-absurdity of placing-pairing Emin with Munch or abysmal-absurdity of placing-pairing Emin with Schiele yet such a high-risk strategy-tactic of this placing-pairing uncannily-unwittingly exposes the bland banality of Emin who cannot draw to save her life; and she knows she cannot draw and the art critics know she cannot draw as they all witnessed with her: Ruined (2007), Because You Left (2016) and You Keep It Coming (2019): this is regressive-retardation; this is ‘work-in-regress’; the work of arrested development; but no ‘art critic’ will dare be honest enough to state this ‘brutality of fact’. That Emin had the gall, that Emin had the temerity, to think that she was justified in being ‘juxtaposed’ with Munch, and Schiele, simply staggers belief, and is beyond belief (and exemplifying the ‘dumbing-down’ of draughtsmanship today). Emin can’t draw. Cunt. Emin cun’t draw. Emin can’t draw. Emin can’t draw cunt. When wet Emin was juxtaposed with dry Bacon at the Tate, the uncouth ‘autist’ not only chose two of Bacons worst paintings but couldn’t even be bothered to tidy up all of the delinquent detritus left around her My Bed (1998). And ‘cuntrary’ to the Tate’s claims, Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon are not: Perfect bedfellows (Tate, Etc, 30 March, 2015) because Bacon hated fucking cunt; but Bacon loved having his fucking cunt fucked hard being a botty boy, being a bum boy, being a cunt boy, who loved having his pussy fucked in doggy bent over the fucking bed and fucked hard for fucking hours and hours on end in the end, without end, in the end, without coming off in the end, without coming off-on the end in the end without coming off the end.

If juxtaposing Emin with Bacon isn’t embracing enough, and totally insane, then juxtaposing Emin with Turner becomes beyond embarrassment and beyond total insanity: that is beyond rational discourse: it is actually worth quoting at length an article on Emin/Turner juxtaposition exhibit with the following review-interview that epitomises the intellectual disability’ (aka mental retardation’) of  conceptual art’ (and: art criticism’): “The effect is breathtaking, and oddly cathartic. The clouds over Turner’s Rough Sea (c.1840-5) are uncannily echoed in the tangle of sheets over Emin’s bed, and the browns and yellows of the landscape are mirrored in the stained mattress, offering an extraordinary connection between the two distinct works.” Speaking to Artnet News, Emin emits: “What I love about this installation is the Turner behind it. If you didn’t know, you’d think that I made the bed as a project: Here’s a Turner, now make a bed out of it. It’s uncanny.  The pale blue knickers, that cloud, the sand banks with the sea, everything is just so similar.” (Naomi Rea, ‘Turner Was a Really Raunchy Man’: Tracey Emin on Why Her Infamous ‘My Bed’ Is Really Like a J.M.W. Turner Painting, Artnet News, October 13, 2017). Cretin critics, such as Naomi Rea (and Jonathan Jones) emulate Emin with their dumbed-down delinquent discourse: the moronic-mindlessness of: Here’s a Turner, now make a bed out of it.” is that kak-kind of kindergarten baby-talk blabbered-out by Jonathan Jones when dementedly defending Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst: for: “It’s uncanny. It’s uncunty. It’s uncocky. It’s undoggy. It’s unpussy. It’s unpissy. It’s unbenty. It’s unstraighty. It’s unhorny. It’s unhardy. It’s unfucky. It’s unspunky. It’s unshitty. It’s undirty. It’s unflirty.

Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst aptly amplify the Democratisation of Art with that stupid slogan: anyone can be an artist which is still disturbingly disseminated, and propagated, through The Turner Prize and The Institute of Contemporary Art; indeed: The Turner Prize and The Institute of Contemporary Art are political programmes solely for expunging and exorcising the historical-crimes of white-privilege (so they: act-out-of-guilt-in-good-faith if that makes sense); Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst were cynically sold as anyone-can-be-an-artist rough-trade by Jay Jopling and Charles Saatchi aided and abetted by uncritical art-critics of The Guardian and The Independent. Damien Hirst is on the record as stupidly saying: “Anyone can be like Rembrandt. I don’t think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It’s about freedom and guts. It’s about looking. It can be learnt. That’s the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice you can make great paintings.” (Damien Hirst says anyone can be like Rembrandt. But does art world agree?, Culture, The Guardian, November 14, 2009). So with practice why hasn’t Hirst made great paintings? Yet The Turner Prize and The Institute of Contemporary Art promote the idiocy of anybody can do it (whilst, of course, privately knowing, only too well, that hardly anybody, if anyone at all, can do it today; the truth is that absolutely nobody can really do it’ today like Rembrandt or Leonardo, or Titan, or Caravaggio, or Velázquez, or Vermeer, or Fragonard, or Turner, or Monet, or Van Gogh, or Picasso, or Bacon, could: the fucking cunt Critics know very well that cunt Emin cunt fucking draw just as the fucking cunt Critics know very well that cunt Hirst cunt fucking paint; and cunt Emin gets cuntly paid for making cuntoy; just as cunt Hirst gets cuntly paid for making cuntoy; as a cunting Emin knows she can get away with fucking with the cunts; just as a cunting Hirst knows he can get away with fucking with the cunts.

So Hirst stated: “It’s about looking.” Yet looking at Hirst’s Bacon pastiche paintings it is clear for Hirst that it is certainly is not about looking because Hirst cannot perceive a lemon so Hirst cannot paint a lemon and Hirst cannot perceive a skull so Hirst cannot paint a skull. Hirst stated: “It’s about freedom and guts.” Yet Hirsts Bacon pastiche paintings are not only gutless but also spineless so completely lacking in freedom. Even Hockney is not nearly as effete as Hirst. Skull with Astray, Lemon and Cigarettes (2006) by Hirst is the work of an uncouth six year old; or rather, the work of retarded development; akin to the retarded development of Emin: aesthetic retardation rules: dreary dull dullard David Hockney has regressed to his second childhood (or; is it now his: third childhood?) excreting an embarrassing retard-realism’ (aka: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life’ at the RA).

Whilst Damien Hirst cannot paint to save his life, whilst Damien Hirst cannot paint to save his death, Ruben Pang can paint to save his live, Ruben Pang can paint to save his death. Whilst Ruben Pang saved the death of painting; so thus, at a price, Ruben Pang could give painting classes to Damien Hirst, at a price, Ruben Pang could give painting classes to Jenny Saville, at a price, Ruben Pang could give painting classes to Richard Prince.






                                                                                                                                                                                   Ruben Pang  © Singapore Art Book Fair 2022





‘Art Speak’ or Saturant Satire?


The Yavus Gallery wrote of Ruben Pang in what is now trending as ‘Art Speak’ or what inanely (intellectually) is known as ‘Art Writing’; or: was such ‘art writing’ actually accentuating a cynical-cytolysis of a saturant-satire?

Ruben Pang’s (b. 1990, Singapore) work focuses on automatism, the neurosis and drama of the human condition. Beginning with painting, Pang’s practice has also led him to explore the dynamism and spontaneous response of sculpture and the sensitivities and collaborative spirit of music production and performance.

Often, Pang resists binaries in genres such as ‘abstraction’ and ‘figuration’ and simultaneously enjoys the stability of established formats such as the finitude of the edges of a painting and a perfectly varnished surface. Working without a preconceived image of the final composition, his approach allows the imagery to surface spontaneously; a “visual syncopation, like searching for a melody in white noise”. Pang insists on the creative process being an adventure, with a narrative arc and conflict. He believes that the residual object distilled from a creative journey, is more than a memory, in the sense that it is a record that can inspire new experiences.

Pantheon pantomiming Pang patina panged: “If you ask me what is a successful painting, I cannot give you a proper definition. But, to me, a successful painting is part man, part bear, part pig. I like this idea, where you describe a painting to be part impressive, part accidental, and part I-don’t-know-what-is-going-on. Sometimes, I feel like gagging when I look at some of my works. I associate it with this closed, stuck, dark feeling which is very different from egotistically feeling like I have improved and therefore I distance myself from the art piece.”  Ruben Pang © Singapore Art Book Fair, 2022.

“I am more in the tradition of Bacon, his tender, vulnerable, sincerity, and I ask where did he have faith? He comes across as a person who is very dismissive about anything spiritual. Because, and I think I understand, from my own perspectivelike he would say, put so much into one stroke, the sacred touch, that you put life into that touch; there are no amendments; that’s a rule he had for himself; perhaps it is also is expressed in his masochism, his gambling, his desperate quirks. Don’t we all have elements of this, we all have quirks, we all need a means of catharsis.”  Ruben Pang © Tony Robert Cochran, 2018





                                                                                                                                                                                          The Mouth Mural 2017-2018  Ruben Pang






Hirst cunt paint. Emin cunt draw.


Hirst can’t paint. The cunt can’t paint. Emin can’t draw. The cunt can’t draw. What the cunt is cunting on when the cunt can’t cunt when that is what the cunts are cunted to cunt but can’t as now to be a cunt is to be a can’t; to can’t is to cunt. Hirst knows he’s a cunt. Emin knows she’s a cunt. Hirst cunts on being a cunt. Emin cunts on being a cunt. Critic cunts know Hirst is a prize cunt to be praised for being a cunt. Critic cunts know Emin is a prize cunt to be praised for being a cunt. Cunt Saatchi knows Hirst is a cunt so counts on Hirst cunting. Cunt Joppling knows Emin is a cunt so counts on Emin cunting. Cunt Saatchi knows Hirst cunt paint. Cunt Joppling knows Emin cunt draw; and at heart, at cunt, cunt Emin knows that she is a cunt; yet: knowing that art dealers are: cunts; and at heart, at cunt, cunt Hirst knows that he is a cunt; yet: knowing that art dealers are: cunts.




The Institute of Contemporary Arts: The Fascistization of Aesthetics


The Institute of Contemporary Arts desperately wants to ‘appear’ to be ‘politically-correct’ by showing ‘politically-correct art-works’ which is an oxymoron; since how can ‘art-works’ be ‘politically-correct’ when ‘art-works’ are, by their ‘ab-nature’, non-political? How can ‘art-works’ have a sense of ‘social responsibility’ when ‘art-works’ are ‘anti-social’ by their ‘ab-nature’? An ‘art-work’ is all-alone-in-the-world so wants-to-be-left-all-alone. That is why there can be no such thing as ‘public-sculpture’ because there-is-no-public-there-being-there for the ‘public-they’ are ‘these-they-not-being-there’ so ‘public sculpture’ is an oxidant-oxymoron; as sculpture, by its ab-nature, is ‘anti-social’ and so would never ever even be seen ‘in public’ because sculpture is incredibly shy and coy and antidromically anti-social and prismatically-private thus sculpture does not like being exhibited in public-galleries. Paralytically, The Institute of Contemporary Arts detests and despises the ‘public-they’ even entering their prestigious-premises and would far rather the public they would just stay far away despite the I.C.A being publically funded. The bourgeois I.C.A is instrumentally identical to the petit-bourgeois Royal Academy of Arts as they deride and despise ‘the masses’ whist depending upon them for their own slovenly survival. The Artivism’ of the I.C.A., through its ‘fetishization of politics’, as an aestheticization of politics, is pure Fascism (structurally, ideologically) and therefore far more elitist, exclusionary and reactionary than even the R.A.







                                                                                                                                                                                             Ruben Pang, The Storm, 2012







                                                                                                                                                                                             Glenn Brown, Shallow Deaths, 2000








                                                                                                                                                                                        Frank Auerbach, Head of J.Y.M. II, 1984-85








                                                                                                                                                               Portrait of Edward Richard Gardiner, 1767, Thomas Gainsborough





“The work is not a work when it is only an interesting object of study, a product among other products. In this sense, it has no history. The work is not history's business; rather, history makes it the business of professionals. And yet the work is history; it is an event, the event of history itself, and this is because its most steadfast claim is to give to the word beginning all its force. Malraux writes, The work speaks on one day a language it will never speak again, that of its birth. But we must add this: what it says is not only what it is at the moment of being born, when it begins. Always it says, in one guise or another: beginning. It is thus that history belongs to it and that nevertheless it escapes history. In the world where it emerges to proclaim that now there is a work — in the usual time, that is, of current truths — it emerges as the unaccustomed, the unwonted, that which has no relation to this world or with this time. Never is it affirmed on the basis of familiar, present reality. It takes away what is most familiar to us. And always it is in excess: it is the superfluity of what always lacks. We have called this excess poverty the superabundance of refusal.”

                           Maurice Blanchot, The Work Says: Beginning; The Space of Literature, Éditions Gallimard: 1955




 The Pure Possibility of Pure Presence: Pure Consciousness of Pure Paint done Outside of History


A History of Art does not necessarily, by necessity, know the Portrait of Edward Richard Gardiner, 1767, by Thomas Gainsborough, comes after, way after, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach, making a laughing-stock of a History of Art that is interpolated-incorporated into so-called historical time’ as time-served by the art historian and art critic who place Gainsborough (and Tuner) as ‘coming before’ Bacon and Auerbach, such is the their crude ‘commonsense’ understanding of time and aesthetics, not understanding the ontological time of aesthetics as ‘the aesthetics of time’ done outside of history, that knows nothing of history, needing nothing of history.

The very last actual-real painting that Bacon did was the spirit-semen sparkle sprinkle in the centre panel of Triptych, August 1972 where we see the spirit of Dyer leaving the body: where the coming-off-of-being is in fact the coming-off-of-spirit for as a supreme painter of spunk Bacon was a supreme painter of spirit where the late Self-Portraits are free from flesh free from time free from aging where Bacon paints spirit akin to the Heads and the Meditations of Jawlensky both Bacon and Jawlensky were the last painters of spirit for we live in a spiritless age which is why we do not recognise Spirit in Bacon and Jawlensky whom were primarily painters of spirit; as paint painted, rather than illustrated, is a sign of a conscience: not all painters have aconscience even if appearing to be conscious: since someone who is conscious does not necessarily always have a conscience.

For Bacon abpaint is the coming of consciousness; as pure paint is pure consciousness conscious of being paint; just as clay is conscious of being clay and this consciousness is in the doing and this doing is what we nominate as minding since painting is minding not thinking since sculpting is minding and not thinking for paint to be is for paint to mind just as for clay to be is for clay to mind and that is the paint minding itself like the clay minding itself and that means not letting the mind of the artist interfere with the mind of the abpaint or the mind of the abclay and Bacon lets the paint mind itself as having an abmind of its own as an abpaint of Bacon is minding its business: being ontological, the paint and the clay has a mind-all-of-its-own; thus the artist has to be: mindful-in-being-mindless’, when-working-with the paint-to-mind-itself, when-working-with the clay-to-mind-itself.

The paint of Bacon is non-representational paint as it has nothing to represent only being to present as pure-paint presents pure-being as pure-paint is pure-being as the concrete-in-paint as the concrete-in-mind as the concrete consciousness coming to mind as being-paint and nothing but being-paint as paint-being but not all paint has being just as not all being has being has being-there since not all paint is there since not all being is there because it is dreadfully difficult for paint-to-come-into-being just since it is dreadfully difficult for beings-to-come-into-being-there as there is hardly any their-painting-being-there today for there is hardly any their-being-being-there today: we witness this lack of leaking wetness of being-there-being-their with contemporary artists (as well with contemporary actors) who should be their-there in theory but are not their-there in factry.

Not all artists are painters for not all painters are painters for not all can bring-paint-to-be and in actual fact there are hardly any painters at all when you put your mind to it as when we come to paint and painting there is hardly any actual painting ever done and by painting we mean paint-coming-to-being as painting but most of what we nominate as painting is nothing of the kind because there is no being of the paint-there for the paint has not actually been painted and so we can safely say that on an ontological level there are, in fact, extremely few painters who paint paintings and in fact most painters today have an actual dread of the paint that is of paint-coming-into-being; same is true of sculptors who dont like getting their hands dirty with the shitty (diarrhetic-dasein’) clay as most sculptors are anally-retentive and so want to: hold it all in, rather than: let it all go.

Bacon paints paradoxical portraits where what appears-there is remote-from-itself whilst cementing concrete nearness-thereness as an abjected appearance da-sein disappearance where what is there is the what was there all at once where-there are lost and found time-frames thrown-retrieved as a fort-da economy of throwing-time and retrieving-time where the person portrayed is inserted-in-between-times doing different times all at once and so one never knows what time of day it is or what time of night it is when we catch a glimpse of being glowing: for all Bacon can hope to offer us is a glimpse-glow of being-there and that then is the glint and gleam of being painted-there; this was why late Bacon was so strikingly akin to late Jawlensky’; but because Jawlensky is unfashionable today, art scholars are lackadaisical to these sensationing similarities between these two masters.






                                                                                                                                                       Degas’s Paint: The Raw of The Real: A  Study of a Girl’s Head, 1878






Lived Paint


For Merleau-Ponty, Cézanne’s paint, like Bacon’s paint, throw-us full-throttle into ‘the world of lived experience’ by actually attaining to ‘recapture the feel of perceptual experience itself’ (World of Perception). What Merleau-Ponty wrote about Cézanne was uncannily akin to Bacon in their abilities to ‘portray the world, to change it completely into a spectacle, to make visible how the world touches us’ (Cézanne’s Doubt). In The Film, Merleau-Ponty could easily be describing the sensations seen and heard in a Bacon painting when writing: ‘hot, cold, shrill, or hard colours, of sounds that are clear, sharp, brilliant, rough or mellow, of soft noises and penetrating fragrances’; and of how Cézanne stated that ‘one could see the velvetiness, the hardness, the softness, and even the odour of objects’ again equally applies to describing Bacon’s ethos of recording in paint the lived sensation of being. Bacon’s lived paint between 1944 and 1976 had such a wide and diverse range of textures, temperatures, sounds and bites; but began evaporating into an etiolated paint from 1977 onward; Bacon had actually stopped painting as such by 1980.  Merleau-Ponty writing on Cézanne always suggests Bacon since both Cézanne and Bacon had a will-to-sensation where being-paint becomes being-flesh where the paint is always already the flesh as the Real and not as a representation. Cézanne and Bacon were both obsessed with recording the fleshy fleshed-out senstaioning of the Real (which must not to be confused with the ‘symbolic real’ or the ‘imaginary real’ of Lacanian psychoanalysis). Cézanne and Bacon did not ‘interpret’ the Real, Cézanne and Bacon did not ‘represent’ the Real, Cézanne and Bacon ‘presented’ the Real via ‘sensationing’ the Real for sensation is the presence of the Real mediated via the paint. When we ‘witness’ the ‘wetness’ of the Real within Cézanne and Bacon we cannot name the Real, we cannot nominate what the Real is, only ‘watch’ the Real ‘at work’ on us.

Bacon aspired to paint the Real of Degas as the raw of the Real preferring the immediacy and intensity of the pastels to the oils; but Bacon admired the oil sketches of artists from Degas to Constable, Turner to Seurat, with their freshness of being paint making it perfectly clear what the Real really is despite denials of Lacanians who not only cannot attain complete-jouissance, but cannot come to know the Real for itself, as its self, as Bacon attains to as Degas attains to as Seurat attains to as Constable attains to as Turner attains to as well as Van Gogh as well as Corinth attains to as well as Soutine attains to where the Real of that paint presentsnot representsthe real of the Real and that Real of the Paint is the attuning and attaining to a complete-fulfilled jouissance of the Real which is in fact far more real as the Real than those representations nominated as human beings that are unreal as what could be more un-real than the human-being? The Real is alien to the human because real-being is alien-being being alien to the human that is not real-being; not the being the Real that is the alien Real unknown to the human that is, unknown to thinking, which was a thing ‘what’ some humans are said to have ‘done’ some time ago they say; for thinking for the human is something long past done way back then sometime back then. For us today, thinking is something past, for we can no longer: think; as we bare witness to those thick Heideggerians who cannot ‘think for themselves’ who mindlessly mimic what Heidegger thought.

Bacon’s fortified frothed fractured fragmented heinous hideous heeded heads neither begin nor end but erupt eternally ejaculating froth foams from the thyroid control centre spilling out towards them always already mutating ‘man’ meat metamorphoses arriving at an angoisse archaic alteric alien again. Also Artaud arts anarchic alterity altering aluminium altitude amassing atta Apollyon aorta aperture opening oroide oozed orphic osis oils oust flow flood flank forward forte frottage frowzy fructify fruition fractious fractured fracas fragmentations bled by bayonet Blanchot: “... fragmentation is the pulling to pieces (the tearing) of that which never had pre-existed (really or ideally) as a whole, nor can it ever be reassembled in any future presence whatsoever... Detached from everything, including detachment.” (Maurice Blanchot, L’écriture du désastre. Paris Gallimard, 1980). Here we hear how closer Bacon was to Blanchot rather than Beckett; Bacon had nothing in common with Beckett, but Bacon had everything in common with Blanchot; since we can read Blanchot in Bacon since we can read Bacon in Blanchot. Reading means: you are read already, in an immemorial past, of a reading which was not yours, which you have thus neither known nor lived, but under the threat of which you believe you are called upon to read; you await it henceforth in the reading, in reading a future to make it possible to read now as a possible future now, as a reading that will take place now and will belong to the realm of sensations.

The tearing of the paint to pieces in Bacon is the tarrying with the negative in Hegel and the throwing of the paint in one piece by Bacon is both the tarring with death and the carrying of death-within-the-paint as the gustatory geist smell and sight and sound of thrown-death being-there as a pure-presentation (not as a representation) of death-in-itself-as-itself-for-itself as quite literally the face of death but without the banal literalness of death since death cannot be illustrated by illustration only painted by paint-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself-0as-death-being-there (since only Rembrandt, Velázquez, Van Gogh, Picasso, Soutine, Sickert and Bacon can paint the ontology of the being of death) where the raw (the real and the true) language of the paint endures death within it as a living force as the positivity of negativity where that wet negative moment in Hegel becomes a positive-force foam form of the being-dead; for we have a first-hand immediate presentation of what it actually feels like in ‘being-dead’ when we look at Rembrandt, Velázquez, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, Soutine, Sickert and Bacon. Sick Sickert quite ‘literally’ had first-hand experiences at making a killing out of a painting, at making a painting out of a killing, where we: ‘witness that wetness’ of the scene of the crime as the crime of the seen.






                                                                                                                                                                Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of John Hewitt, 1966        








Bacon not only tears the paint apart but tears people apart as well: “I’ve always thought of friendship as where two people really tear one another apart and perhaps in that way learn something from one another. I’ve always hope to find another painter I could really talk towho really tore my things to bits and whose judgement I could actually believe in...”  (Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson, 1987).  Hear Heraclitus here:  “Men do not understand how a thing which is torn in different directions comes into accord with itselfharmony in contrariety, as in the case of the bow or the lyre.” For to tear apart was always to bring together; to throw-paint is to retrieve-image and so throwing is a gathering but very few know how-to-throw just as very few know ‘how-to-gather’; which is why we all know that not ‘anyone’ can be an artist.

And: Adorno adroitly adds: “Artworks are a priori negative by the law of their objectivation: They kill what they objectify by tearing it away from the immediacy of its life. Their own life preys on death. This defines the qualitative threshold to modern art. Only by the strength of its deadliness do art works participate in reconciliation.  But in this they at the same time remain obedient to myth. This is what is Egyptian in each. By wanting to give permanence to the transitoryto lifeby wanting to save it from death, the works kills it.”  (Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1997).  Artworks are our ‘after-death’: as the ‘extra-empirical’ evidence of our ‘after-life’. 

But by brutally tearing the torso to tatters pulling-it-to-pieces-to-pulp-to-pap through the thrown paint-pus Bacon freely fractures filtered fragments throwing through there the terete fucked-face hollowing husk hydraulic hyena howling hybrid hydra hysteria hypostasis where wonderful wounding as a out of our oozed being becoming such suffuse severed surplus saturated seeping smelly smaze soggy soft sludge slurp stuff soaking spunk sown sensation: shining shimmering showering shielding showing scintillating skin shine shot sein: Bacon, Nolde, Soutine, and Jawlensky bleed-colour to bleed-being to bleed spirit sow-as-to bleed-the-meat to reveal-the-spirit which is the being of the meat that gives meat its shine; and this shine is the sign of the divine-dasein of flesh-spirit; for flesh is the spirit of the meat that is the material expression of spirit as flesh; for soul-flesh is a soul-flash of being spirit-there. Sickert paints a dry-dasien as dread-dasein where the paint is dry without being dried-up, without being died-out, and so retains its eternal wet-dry dread-dasein being much more alive today than the daseinless saponated Saville. Yet the dryness of Sickert is that ‘wet-dryness’ of the dieness just-after the corpse had dried-out and died-out whilst-wet leaving a signature-stain, left-behind, signed-in, still-wet blood.




Paint is There


Paint is always the there just as being is always the there as where there is paint there is being as where there is being there is always there and being and paint need the there clear in order to come-into-being and Bacon gives us ground for paint-to-be for being-to-be and so Bacon keeps the ground all dull and desolate in order to-clear-the-ground for paint-to-be for being-to-be thus this is the genius of Bacon in giving-the-ground a frissonless-flatness that then thus gives the paint the clearing clear as a plateau to breath freely upon a clear-ground being-free and this different from the claustrophobic-clutter frequently found in kak Kossoff, and in kak Auerbach, and in kak Freud, who gravel-the-ground, congest the the air and so the ab-image cannot breath in the air or ground-its-being-in-the-ground by being suffocated in-by the claustrophobic-contentedness of the clogged-grounded kakhanded-paint. Yet miraculously, heavy-heads of Auerbach are able to: ‘survive’ their surrounding slime and swamp and still able to breathe through the stench of the sewage through which they swim.

The Paint of Bacon, akin to the Paint of Velázquez, akin to the Paint of Rembrandt, and akin to the Paint of Van Gogh, akin to the Paint of Monet, cannot be reproduced in colour reproductions which renders books on Bacon and Velázquez, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet and Bacon null and void since they always come across as flat and dull and lifeless no matter how well reproduced the reproductions are they always lack that raw materiality of the Paint lacking the reality of the Paint which is why one can only ever Encounter the Paint of Rembrandt and the Paint of Van Gogh and the Paint of Bacon in-the-paint that is in-the-flesh for the flesh-is-the-paint-the-paint-is-the-flesh which is why Rembrandt and Van Gogh and Bacon present paint-flesh and never a represented flesh. Even the solemn subdued sedate paint in Self-Portrait, 1889, of van Gogh has a living-quality (living-intensity) that the pulse-less placid-paint in kak-handed Lucian Freud could never attain; for with ‘frag’ Freud there is no ‘sense-sensation’ of Freud ‘being-there’ that you get with van Gogh being-there; why do you think that is then?






                                                                                                                                                                                           Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889








                                                                                                                                                                      Francis Bacon, Study for Head of George Dyer, 1967







Francis Bacon: The Culinary Paint of a Master Chef


The profound problem with the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (2016) is the poor (impoverished) quality of the colour reproductions and largely a lack of close-up detail of the paint so essential to the artists painting period between 1949 and 1969. Bacon, like Auerbach, has never faired well in colour reproductions unlike illustrative artists such as Hockney, Saville, or Warhol, who actually look so far better in colour reproductions than in the flesh. When one scans over the etiolated colour plates of the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné one is left feeling extremely hungry, as so starved of the paint, for the paint, which one cannot taste, one cannot smell.

The fleshness of the plashy paint comes forth figurism from the thrown fleshism freshness of the paint thrown forth afresh through the thrownness of the paint which is the frisson freshness of the pulsating paint as flesh is fresh for flesh is what is always fresh so the paint must be thrown all fresh where the throwing-forth is a way of freshness yet not anyone can throw freshly just as not anyone can paint freshly as if the paint were always eternally fresh infinitely fresh just as time is always a fresh time which is why time can never be linear which is why paint can never be linear; for paint is the nowness of time always already being-now being thrown now being painted now for paint to be flesh for paint to be fresh paint has to be in-the-throw of the nows in an instant infinitely forever thrown forth into infinity, infinitely-thrown eternally-fresh molten-lava leaking-life eternal burning-bright being-here. It is: in the now of paint-in-itself-for-itself-as-it-is that is the maestro-measure of the greatness of the artist; as so few artists are able to paint in the no-time-now of the now-paint: done-now.

Through Baconian and Bakhtinian parole brutethe lived language of leaked paint and wordBacon and Blanchot displace paint and dissolve language by lifting it, leaking it, flaying it, filleting it, spilling it, spunking it, splitting it, severing it, sensationing it, frothing it, fragmenting it, frissoning it free from the noise of narrative to the nailed nervous system where force negates form, where form becomes foam-froth foaming-forth, forever-wet without illustration, without words, negating narrative. Bacon was far closer to Blanchot than to Beckett but no one mentions this, not even Leiris. Blanchot terms: the fragmentary as: “Languages rupture with itself.”  

Whilst, for Bacon, Paints rupture with itself is initiated in painting portraits where wet paint abjects itself out of itself so transforming and transcending itself from paint-for-itself to paint in-itself thrown out of itself like lava leaking burning being bright as an abjected alien oozed object wetted which fits-over and floods-out the sedated-subject wet-where the beautiful human subject becomes: the ugly alien object. Bacon paints portraits as freeze-framed frothed-formed flawed-facets in a stasis-state whilst welded within a moving-on-at-a-stand-still: in the Self-Portraits by Bacon, time-is-frozen-in-time, playing for time, praying for time, to be at a standstill. 

In Bacons primordial portraits of our wondrous wounds, the abject-sublime is the angelic angoisse antagonistic dialectic duelled between the drying-dying human subject and the beautifully borning alien object: Bacons paint parole brute is the thrown-thick leaked-lava soaking-scorching the sinking-subject hot-wet with smouldering sticky slime stuff: ejaculating, erupting, engulfing out over our empty-ego throttling the thrown foreign filtered flayed fuck face forever fresh froth spilling specific spatial sliver silver slithered speckle sperm spasm specimen spiritualizes spearing sensation ornately oozed obliquely obtusely outrageously outmoded outer orbit, outblazingly: out-of-joint jettisoning jouissance jointedness jousting journeyman jottings jogging  joyriding jockstrap jostling joystick joinder joviality jokinesses jouncing jointly jolliest journalists job jokes jock jockeying.

You can easily smell and see sticky slime stuff on the chin in Study for Head of George Dyer (1967) but this plashy paint can hardly be easily smelt out or seen in the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (2016). Then there is the paradoxical paint of a plashy-driedness as we witness and wetness and dryness in Figure in a Room (1962) when-where Bacon was at the height of painting with paint where wet-dry or dry-wet textures teething through textures nailing the nerves. For Bacon the paint as plashy is the plush; a painterly ripeness, a painterly richness as a painterly voluptuousness; the painterly luxury of a haute cuisine painter; for Bacon was the Gourmet of Painting in the 1960s; Bacon was a gourmet of paint and pain as well as a gourmet of food and wine; for Bacon was a Master Chef of Manipulating Paint; sedately serving the meat off the bone whilst filleting the fish with finesse and served rare serving grilled salmon with a béarnaise sauce: such was the serving up for the moist memory of Bacon since seeing steaming sparkling semen surge seeping served off the bone of man was the divine.






                                                                                                                               J.M.W. Turner,,A Wreck, Possibly Related to ‘Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End, c. 1834





Abstract Expressionism


Abstraction and Expressionism were two terms Bacon detested and despised yet were clearly apparent and evident within painting practices of Bacon. And Bacon repeatedly stated that he had nothing to express; yet the paint is a direct expression of the execution of the abimage through expressive paint that expresses a nervous mood or an anxious move. And there are abstract passages of paint operating outside of illustration that illustrate Bacon was an abstract painter and not only an abstract painter but an abstract expressionist painter albeit one not so sloppy or messy as de Kooning. The Abstract Expressionism of Bacon is in fact Abstract Figureism because Bacon never loses the image of the figure or the face even in his late organic shape-shifting landscapes and spacescapes; the presence or the after-presence or the trace-shadow of the figure is always present when absent in Bacon for the abimage as figure is always the dasein of the image. The dasein is so strong in Bacon that when we think that there is nothing-there or hardly anything-here we still feel an uncanny presences of that absence being-there and this has to do with the ‘lived’ quality of the paint that is much more ‘lived’ and ‘alive’ than in other painters such as Fontana and Newman where the ‘quality of the paint’ is not so much ‘lived’ but ‘deaded’. Of course, historically speaking, Turner comes after de Kooning, Fontana, Francis, Kline, Krasner, Louis, Martin, Mitchell, Motherwell, Natkin, Newman, Pollock, Reinhardt, Riley, Rothko, Stella, Still, Twombly. Why is it that Turner always comes across as much more advanced, more modern, more mature, so much more radical, so much more now, than sloppy-slapdash Francis, Kline de Kooning, Pollock, Twombly.

The dasein in Freud and Auerbach is almost, if not always, absence; whilst the dasein in van Gogh and Rembrandt is always there, poignantly and intensely, there as paint-dasein and so different artists reveal their levels of dasein or their lacks of dasein through the being of the their brush and the being of their oil-paint since oil-paint is ontological; not surprisingly then that ‘plastic’ acrylic paint has no dasein: acrylic paint does not live like oil paint; the brush-stroke reveals the da-sein of an artist: the brush-stroke confirms if an artist is there, beingwise: some artists are there: some artists are not there: some artists are slightly-there, some artists are almost-there; and so some artists take time to become dasein over time and so can begin by not being there in the beginning but being there in the end; so not everyone is dasein to begin with; and some lose their dasein over time.

Turner was the greatest Abstract Expressionist whose images have a far more poignantly potent presencing than all the later Abstract Expressionists because Turner was able to make much more specific marks of ‘the Real’ as an identifiable Dasein whilst at the same time being totally abstract. Only the Indian Ink Drawings of Henri Michaux come close to the nailing of the Real in near Abstraction of whom Francis Bacon did not see as being at all Abstract. One can see why Turner always comes way after Pollock, Rothko, Natkin, Hofmann, Reinhardt, Newman and Bacon always already after already coming after and never ever before have we had an artist coming after whom came before them after all. This makes a mockery of the myth of so-called ‘art history’ and the ‘history of art’. Artworks are the radical realisation that time does not exist. Art is made: out of time. Art is not: in time. Which is why Art is always late. Art is before its Time, and arrives after its Time. Art is not an abstraction. Art does not: abstract. Turner comes after ‘the Contemporary’, as Turner refuses the ‘closure’ of ‘art history’.

Being does not: abstract. Being is not an abstraction which is why their can be no ontology of an abstract art: abstract painting is the negation of ontology altogether because there is nothing ‘identifiable’ being there in abstract painting per se has no dasein which is why Bacon rightly referred to abstract painting as decoration and as wallpaper. David Sylvester had no instinctive understating of the ontology of paint so simply dismissed all those Bacon decoration declarations on abstraction. Furthermore, Sylvester slavishly followed the aesthetics fashions of his day, whilst Bacon bravely refused to follow the futile fashion for abstraction. And yet: there is nothing Abstract or Expressionist in Bacon’s ab-imagery which is always primarily ab-paint-in-itself-for-itself which is thus not at all abstracted and which thus is not expressed: the ab-paint simply is-there as an ab-image.

Rothko had dasein because Rothko is not an ‘abstract painter’ per-se, as-such; as Rothko paints emanations, vibrations, mediations, meditations, moodations as sensations of dasein or what was once nominated as spirit: Rothko presents the materiality of spirit of spirit made flesh. Bacon presents the materiality of ‘flesh made spirit’: In the later Bacon Self Portraits we bear witness to the bare wetness of ‘flesh made spirit’, which, in turn, ‘miraculously’ mirroring the meandering moods mediated in the Mediations of Jawlensky and it still seems strange that, even now, no one seems able to see how strikingly similar late Bacon Self Portraits and late Jawlesnky Meditations are in their timeless tranquillity. It is high-time that the late Bacon Self Portraits and the late Jawlesnky Meditations be must together; it is high-time that Rothko and Jawlensky must be shown together. Yet curators tend to be rather conservative and unimaginative and follow the fashion of their day and so would never even begin to consider ‘exhibiting-juxtaposing’ Jawlensky with Bacon: for it’s just not ‘the done thing’ to do.




Reaction to Abstraction


The common and commonsense reaction to abstraction can be heard with these two statements: ‘There’s nothing there’ or: ‘My kid could do that.’ Both statements: ‘There’s nothing there’ and ‘My kid could do that.’ are true and untrue. Indeed; there ‘is’ nothing ‘there’ and nothing is indeed is what is there and this opens us up to asking ourselves what is it about the nothing that is there that causes us such anxiety and dread/ Is it our own death which is this nothing that is there? Bacon said he did not fear death because there was nothing there to fear and this was the fear of death in Bacon fearing that nothing death that is abstract painting: that nothing there of abstract death: what is so deeply disturbing about ‘abstract art’ is that it is: ‘another kind of nothing’ that is not the: ‘ontological-nothingfulness’ of ‘being-death’; rather: a ‘non-ontological nothing’, (if that makes any sense).

Our anxiety and dread of abstraction merely mirrors our dread and anxiety of the mirrorless nothing-there that is death-not-there: Abstract Expressionism presents purely and simply our not being-there we are literally out of the picture so to speak so to paint Abstract Expressionism presents an absence of our dasein and we dread our dasein being absent, not being there, and this: not human not being there is this radical: Anti-Natalim of Abstract Expressionism which is a cosmological ontology and not a human ontology for there is refreshingly and radically nothing human about Abstract Expressionism and this is its virtue and violence: virtue of the human being absent of the human and violent by its negation of the human and abstract art signified my non-existence as a threat to the ego-centeredness as required of self-portraiture as an assertion of the I am, that I exist as a face-there. Yet I do not fear abstract painting because there is noting there to fear. I have anxiety about abstract painting because I have an anxiety about abstraction and death is an abstraction abstracted from nothing which is not death. Those that do identify with abstract painting identify with an abstraction as an abortiveness: not necessarily face-to-face-with-nothing but: aborted abstention as a no-face-to-no-face aborted-abyss as those-these-no-ones-not-here: Bacon acutely ascertained that it was hardly at all surprising that Americans love abstract art as they are so abstract themselves thus directly ‘identifying’ with its abstract nothingness.








                                                                                                                                                   Study of Portrait of P. L. from photographs (1963) © The Estate of Francis Bacon







Prime Bacon


Bacon was at his bravura best in: Landscape with Car (1946-47), Head II (1949), Head VI (1949), Study after Velázquez (1950), Study for a Figure (1950), Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953), Study for a Portrait (1953), Three Studies of the Human Head (1953), Two Figures (1953), Pope (1953), Portrait of David Sylvester Walking (1953), Portrait of a Man (1953), Study of a Dog (1954), Two Americans (1954), Man in Blue I (1954), Man in Blue V (1954), Man in Blue IV (1954), Man in Blue V I (1954), Man in Blue VII (1954), Portrait of R. J. Sainsbury (1955), Figures in a Landscape (1956-1957), Study for Portrait of Van Gogh IV (1957), Head of Boy (1960), Study of a Child (1960), HeadMan in Blue (1961), Paralytic Child Walking on all Fours from Muybridge (1961), Crouching Nude (1961), Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962), Head(The Surgeon) (1962), Study from Innocent X (1962), PortraitPeter Lacy (1962), Study for a Portrait of P.L. (1962), Portrait of Henrietta Morase (1963), Study of Portrait of P. L. from photographs (1963), Study for Portrait with Two Owls (1963), Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), Turning Figure (1963), Study for Portrait on Folding Bed (1963), Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1964), Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach (1964), Three Figures in a Room (1964), Study from Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1965), Crucifixion (1965), Portrait of Henrietta Morase on a Blue Couch (1965), Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne (1966), Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966), Study for a Portrait (1966), Portrait of George Dyer Staring at a Blind-Cord (1966), Study for Portrait of John Hewitt (1966), Three Studies of Muriel Belcher (1966), Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966), Two Figures on a Couch (1967), Study for Head of Lucian Freud (1967), Left Panel of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait (1967), Portrait of Lucian Freud (1968), Triptych Studies from the Human Body (1970), Self-Portrait (1970), Three Studies of the Male Back (1970), Triptych (1970), Study for Portrait (1971), Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud Sideways (1971), Lying Figure in a Mirror (1971), Study for Self Portrait with Wrist Watch (1973), Triptych May-June (1973), Triptych March 1974 (1974), Three Studies for Self-Portrait (1974), Two Studies for Portrait (1976), Three Studies for a Self-Portrait (1976).

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) is often cited as the official Ordination and Maturation of Bacon as an artist and image maker but Bacon the particular painter begins with Head VI (1949) where we bare witness and wetness to the ontology of Bacon’s paint that only Bacon could orchestrate. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) is not painted per se as such but instead imaged as that witch Bacon will one day come to paint. Study of Portrait of P. L. from photographs (1963), arguably the prototherion painting of the entire Francis Bacon corpus, was tragically destroyed by the artist on 12 June 1975. Perversely, or maybe even masochistically, Bacon tended to destroy his better paintings (in his attempt to take them further) whilst allowing weaker works to survive, such as the later etiolated works of the 1980’s.  As Bacon confessed: “I think I tend to destroy the better paintings, or those that have been better to a certain extent. I try and take them further, and they lose all their qualities, and they lose everything. I think I would say that I destroy all the better paintings.” Whilst worst paintings survived slashing such as Head II (1958), Seated Woman (1961), Painting (1980), A Piece of Wasteland (1982), Blood on Pavement (1984), Street Scene with Car in Distance (1984).







                                                                                                           Southampton:  A Portrait of PL by Francis Bacon, being carried aboard the Queen Elizabeth II at Southampton today.

                                                                                                         The portrait, is to be shown in an exhibition in the world s first floating art gallery aboard Queen Elizabeth II. 1/1/1969






Rancid Bacon


Bacon last painted in 1976 and from then onward regretfully returned to the regressive retardation of inane illustration. Bacon should have destroyed: Portrait of Lucian Freud (1951), Study for a Portrait with Red & Blue Stripes (1952), Man on a Chaise-Longue (1953), Study for Figure I (1953), Head II (1958), Seated Man, Orange Ground (1958), Seated Figure on a Couch (1959), Head of a Woman (1960), Seated Woman (1961), Study for Female Figure (1971), Self-Portrait (1972), Figures in Movement (1973), Self-Portrait, (1975), Study for Portrait (1976), Three Studies for a Portrait of Gianni Agnelli (1977), Two Studies for Self-Portrait (1977), Three Studies for a Portrait (1977), Triptych (1977), Landscape (1978), Study for a Portrait: John Edwards (1978), Study for Self-Portrait (1978), Study for a Portrait (1978), Two Studies for Portrait of Clive Barker (1978), Two Studies for Portrait of Richard Chopping (1978), Figure in Movement (1978), Side of Beef (1978), Seated Figure (1979), Study for Self-Portrait (1979), Oedipus (1979), Sphinx(Portrait of Muriel Belcher) (1979), Study of Reinhard Hassert & Study of Eddy Batache (1979), Study for Portrait with Bird in Flight (1980), Carcass of Meat & Bird of Prey (1980), Study for Self-Portrait (1981), Study for Portrait (1981), Study for Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne (1982), Kneeling FigureBack View (1982), Figure with Cricket Pad (1982), Study from the Human BodyFigure in Movement (1982), A Piece of Wasteland (1982), Study for the Eumenides (1982), Study for Self-Portrait (1982), Study from the Human Body (1983), Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne (1983), Street Scene with Car in Distance (1984), Blood on Pavement (1984), Study from the Male Body (1986), Study for Portrait of John Edwards (1986), Study from the Human Body (1986), Study for Portrait of Gilbert de Botton (1986), Blood on the FloorPainting (1986), Triptych (1986-1987), Study for Portrait (1987), Figure Opening Door (1987), Study from the Human Body (1987), Triptych (1987), Study from the Human Body and Portrait (1988), Study of a Man and Woman Walking (1988-1989), Study for Portrait of John Edwards (1989), Painting (1990), Study for Portrait of Jose Capélo (1990), Two Studies for a Portrait (1990), Male Nude Before Mirror (1990), Self-Portrait (1990), Figure in Open Doorway (1990-91), Study for the Human Body (1991), Triptych (1991), Study for a Portrait (1991), Study of a Bull (1991). Had Francis Bacon had a critical companion, with an acute aesthetic sense, rather than having a surrogate son, with an esurient economic sense, then Francis Bacon would have definitely destroyed these extremely ersatz (faux) ‘padding paintings. The eight late paintings shown in the 1999 Faggionato Francis Bacon: Paintings from the Estate 1980 1991 exhibition should have all been destroyed.


It is well worth quoting William Feaver at length here on the late Letraset Period’ where on-autopilot Bacon bred Bacons for Bacons sake uncannily akin to on-autopilot Warhol breeding Warhols for Warhols sake:

A martyr to his legend, Bacon bred Bacons until, it seems, they came automatically. His later selves are declared masterly by some. To me they look routine. You don’t have to be a cynic to recognise that he obviously hoped to show a good return on abandon. Elaborations on feeling led to some feeble contrivances. Letraset samplings peppered foregrounds that would otherwise have been conspicuously empty. Bacon at his most suddenly brilliant pulled off fusions of stage presence and clinical examination; at his worst he did what was expected of him, camping it up, leering at the keyhole, asserting copyright on the Human Condition couched in bright colours and with layers of Letraset going BRAGPF and vvvvpffff. Sadly, the exhibition pursues him into the injury time of his last years when he milked the mannerisms and painted himself like a washed-out template.”   William Feaver, Hung, drawn and martyred, The Observer, Sunday, February 8, 1998.


Timothy Hyman on the ‘cut-and-paste’ (ready-made) composite-template assembly-line Bacon had succumbed to having nobody to tell him: Do this, do that, dont do this, don’t do that! (as Bacon had said to Sylvester):

But the most acute questions, largely unlaced by Peppiatt, relate to a widely perceived falling-off in the quality of Bacon’s work in his last twenty-five years. The late triptychs project an elaborate composite design, a steel-and-glass self, smeared with Flesh, spattered with Blood, etched with graphic signs — arrows, gun sights. They seem to me, nearly always, hollow formulaic kitsch — as though someone had read a particularly melodramatic and glamorized account of Bacon’s life, and were now providing images for it.  Timothy Hyman, Priest of a dark cult, Art, The Times Literary Supplement, Friday, April 7, 1997.








                                                                                                                                                                 Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1964







                                                                                                                                                                                      Honoré Fragonard, La Gimblette, 1776





Abstract Expressionism: Work in Regress


Francis Bacon was unfashionably brave to publicly dismiss Abstract Expressionism as dreary decoration and even today such an aesthetic attitude is rather rare since Abstract Expressionism is still fashionable kept in fashion largely, if not exclusively, due to the continuing command of high auction prices with works by: Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis, Franz Kline, Morris Louis, Agnes Martin, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Frank Stella and Willem de Kooning going for millions of dollars. So called art criticism and art writing first and foremost serves the art market as art sales talk with art critics and art experts writing art talk in contemporary art auction catalogues which hard sell the artists auctioned. We are certainly not going to get art critics and art theorists to start seriously critiquing Abstract Expressionist in auction sales catalogues; even some appalling works by Francis Bacon are given sycophantic eulogising in the catalogue notes. Well-established big names means big money’ means the absolute negation of critique altogether and this filters through from the art establishment’ to the ‘art school’ which reproduce and disseminate these ‘big names’ of our ‘contemporary artists’ as the ‘official’ (legitimated) names of the ‘contemporary canon’ (and so ‘sanctioned by the ‘art critic’ as ‘being in’ (vogue). We cannot think of any major art house publications disseminating volumes dedicated to deconstructing Abstract Expressionism because it is not the fashionable thing to do today as there is a vested interest in keeping the Abstract Expressionism ‘market place’ going as well as countless art galleries and art museums worldwide that house ‘important collections’ of Abstract Expressionist painting which in turn gives off a ‘necro-nostalgia’; so non-entities like Fontana, Johns, Kelly, de Kooning, Newman, Towmbly, are never going to be critiqued by art scholars, or art critics, or art auctioneers.

Psychologically and ontologically, speaking, Abstract Expressionism is an appalling case of arrested development as work in regress as a regressive retardation at work and certainly not as sophisticated’ and ‘mature’ and adult as the artworks of chimps and children. Yet one cannot believe that ‘sophisticated’ people such as Kline, such as de Kooning, such as Newman, such as Pollock, such as Stella could paint such spastic paintings. One wishes that our adults were more critical of Abstract Expressionism; even a retarded child, of course, would be much more critical of Towmbly and Pollock, of de Kooning and Kline, of Newman and Stella, than a grown adult; what a perverse paradox; what a troublesome truth. For theretarded child can say what it truly thinks about art whilst thesophisticated art critic cannot say what it truly thinks about art because it has to follow certain rules of the game; that is, the rules of the art game. Those that criticise Abstract Expressionism tend to be branded ignorant or ‘uninformed’ or ‘uncultured or uneducated’ and thus lacking nuance’, and ‘intelligence’, and ‘sophistication. Yet it is precisely the special needs (autistic-aesthetic) retardations of de Kooning and Towmbly that totally lack any ‘subtlety’, ‘nuance’, ‘refinement’, ‘sophistication’, and ‘intelligence’.







                                                                                                                                                        Jackson Pollock, Silver over Black, White, Yellow and Red, 1948








                                                                                                                                                            Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1964






The Economy of the Splatter: Bacon versus Pollock


How do Bacon and Pollock score when it comes to composing the dribbling and the spurting of those shards of semen: those spurts so associated with Bacon and Pollock? So why is it that one spurt composed by Bacon has more intensity (power) that a hundred spurts by Pollock? We know that the over use of percussion in any score cancels out the intensity; the sparse use of timpani for example give much more intensity than an over orchestrated use of timps; even the congested scores of Richard Strauss or Gustav Mahler the timpani are sparingly used and so have an incredible impact; but Pollock and de Kooning are so over orchestrated, over saturated thus the layers of thick painted textures become clogged up and claustrophobic (just as Lucian Freud always over orchestrated painted passages resulting in clogged up and congested claustrophobic paint) although Auerbach has passages of dense orchestration but the paint is never heavy (congested) like it is in Freud and Kossoff. Pollock’s infinity of spurts cancel each other out, whilst Bacon’s finity of the single spurt survives; since one spurt on one canvas from Bacon outlives and outshines one hundred spurts on a canvas by Pollock. De Kooning and Pollock were slap-dash always lacking drip-discipline by being aesthetically (arsethetically) diarrheaotic unable to produce solid stools in being special needs (kak-handed) autists whom lacked toilet-training so thus tailor-made for our aesthetically dyslexic diarrheaotic art critics. Compare and Contrast those black splatters in Silver over Black, White, Yellow and Red, 1948, by Jackson Pollock, with those black splatters in Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1964, by Francis Bacon: the excessively condensed and over orchestration of the black splatters in the Pollock cancel out their potential for poignant intensity; whilst the stark, scant, sparse, sporadic, economy of the black splatters in the Bacon have a far greater poignant intensity.

As an ardent atheist, Francis Bacon was, paradoxically, even perversely, peculiarly particular about how to spend God’s Gifts of Geist (that is God’s Semen Shards of Spent Spirit) without ever overspending the semen strikes, that was, overspilling the semen sent, as in the case of Jackson Pollock; being homosexual, Bacon endured the economy of semen by engaging with all the semen sparingly in all of its gushing geists; whilst heterosexual Pollock did not understand the exacting economy of semening and so over-spent (over-shot) all the stuff without being sensitive to the chance shot shape of each secreted semen spurts; Michael Peppiatt revealingly remembered: “I recall Bacon becoming transfixed, for instance, by a puddle of milk on a café table; he lifted his finger, as if to draw in it, then rather reluctantly, abstained.” (Peppiatt, Bacons Eyes; Francis Bacon in the 1950s, Yale University Press: 2006).  Hardly surprising that de Kooning and Pollock could not control their puddle of milk’ (ejaculations) so over spent, over shot, never understanding: the sparse economy of the splatter’.

The single shot of white paint flung by Bacon in one painting has more intensity and poignancy than all of the flings flung by Pollock in one painting. Less is (in this case) More: (intense). To accompany and to compliment the feather-light single shot of white paint in Portrait of Lucian Freud (1968), Bacon adds additional dry dark-disc anchor timpani-strokes which weigh the image down as this flight of wet white paint lifts-off of the canvas; and we also witness these dry dark-disc anchor timpani-strokes in Bacons musical masterpiece, Portrait of P.L. from Photographs (1963); it is still deeply depressing that Bacon destroyed what was arguably, his very greatest painting: thus it was surprising then that neither Peppiatt nor Sylvester had written a critical commentary on this poignant painting for even though it was destroyed, it was still available in catalogue reproductions.





                                                                                                                                                                                                 Portrait of Lucian Freud (1968)





Cecily Brown contra Willem de Kooning


Willem de Kooning started off as a house painter, and ended up a house painter, and never became a painter per se, as such; even when mimicking at playing a figurative painter, de Kooning remained: a ‘house painter’. How de Kooning ever became recognised, or, rather, misrecognised as a painter is beyond belief and beggars belief. But largely, if not solely, because of the weight of Greenberg and the weight of Sylvester, de Kooning became canonized and lionized as a painter; as an important painter, as a great painter, despite the empirical-aesthetical brutality of fact that de Kooning could not paint to save his death let alone to save his life. Yet syphon Sylvester insanely stated that he actually rated Willem de Kooning above Francis Bacon which makes absolutely no (aesthetic) sense at all, and merely confirms an ‘anally-retentive, aesthetic-autism’ (that hallmark of ‘art criticism’):

    “I think, too, my placing of Bacon hasn’t much changed. I would place him alongside Giacometti, Dubuffet and Beuys. But there are several American artists whom I would place above Bacon  Newman, Pollock, de Kooning, Johns and Twombly. They were, too me, greater painters than Bacon.” (David Sylvester, The art of the interview, Tate, Issue 26, 2001). Who can seriously state with a straight face: Willem de Kooning is a painter?

Bacon was correct to state that Sylvester had no aesthetic sense; Sylvester had no aesthetic judgement. Bacon was infinitely superior to: Newman, Pollock, de Kooning, Johns, and Twombly. Cecily Brown is arguably a superior painter to de Kooning but she has not been given the cultural kudos, cultural certificates, aesthetic authorisations, by those that designate and authorise so sanction who is in the top league; but as the late Mark Cousins taking his cue from Michel Foucault stated: Who ‘authorises the authorisers’? Who puts who: in authority ‘to authorise’ the ‘authority’ to authorisean artist; and: who has the authority to authorise who is an: authorised artist? As masters of authority’, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan authored de Kooning: An American Masterauthorising de Kooning: the authority of the master’; so sanctioning’ de Kooning: authorised.




Francis Bacon contra Cy Twombly


The ontic-quality of the primal mark reveals (marks) developmental dasein or even the possibility or the impossibility of having a dasein. By juxtaposing the marks-made by Cy Twombly with the marks-made by Francis Bacon, you can immediately (instinctively and institutively (even intellectually) grasp who had dasein and/or how progressive or regressive that dasein is. Abstract Expressions unwittingly reveals (unconseals) the ontic-ontological state of the artist through the mind of the hand that makes the primal mark and its ability to be or not to be: (there). Abstract Expressions is the real relation of the possibility and impossibility of our having a dasein: giving classes in doing abstract expressionist painting would give us excellent extra-empirical insights into who exactly has Dasein, and who exactly does not have Dasein; but has this experiment ever been done? 

When we juxtapose Cy Twombly’s “In Beauty it is finished” (1983–2002) with Francis Bacon’s ‘T.S Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ (1967) then we immediately identify which one has dasein and which one does not have dasein; there is no dasein in a Cy Twombly as there is nothing there; whereas there is dasein in a Francis Bacon as there is: something there; — and this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Cy Twombly being abstract’ and Francis Bacon being figurative. We are concerned with: ‘the primordial-quality of the ontological-markas a: mark-in-itself-for-it-self-as-it-self-as-it-is-as-it-was-as-it-were-as-living-all-on-its-own-all-for-its-own-old-sake.

Rosalind Krauss was correct about Cy Twombly being regressive and retarded: the ontic-quality of the mark-making made by Cy Twombly are diarrheicly devoid of dasein; for the marks made by Cy Twombly are of an arrested development as being underdeveloped: (handicapped) and it dumfounds us why adults are attracted to such diarrhoeic daubs done by Cy Twombly revealing a lack of aesthetic judgement. When we juxtapose the suave and delicate diaphanous-drawings made by Henri Michaux, with the diarrhoeatical-drawings made by Cy Twombly, then we see how backwardly impeded the feeble-minded marks made by Cy Twombly really were.





                                                            Ontoregression: Cy Twombly, “In Beauty it is finished” (1983–2002)                                              Ontoprogression: Francis Bacon’s ‘T.S Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ (1967)







The Non-Illustrational Figuration of Albert Marquet & Henri Michaux


Albert Marquet was unofficially, but aesthetically, the peoplescape painter predecessor of  Henri Michaux in that we witness an initiation and an instalment of non-illustration figuration as the moist movement of the masses as peoplescapes. Maquet and Michaux were able with one singular brushstroke able to paint a figure in motion by enabling an economy as an essence of the figure like no other artists were able to do. Marquet, even to this day, still remains underrated and overlooked; remember that the sheer brave radicality of exacting an economy of a single brushstroke a short hand of sensation to create a complete singular form is, still, even today, extremely rare amongst painters whom largely laboriously fill-in-the-form with far too many brushstrokes to make a complete singular form. Michaux takes Marquet even further into abstract figuration which is not really abstract at all, as such per se; or: just as Clyfford Still was not abstract’, as such per se, was not an: Abstract Expressionist’; or:  just as Robert Natkin was not abstract’, as such per se, was not an: Abstract Expressionist’.

Henri Michaux is an apt example of an artist working within the real of  Abstract Figurism and thus Henri Michaux is much more memorable than Jackson Pollock because the identifiable moving images are imprinted on us as identifiable with the identity of the Real and so not abstract; where as Pollock as cosmic abstract remains at the level of the nothing not there not being here with which an art critic necessarily identifies with as a nothing there. But what of this nothing that is not there? For they say that there is rhythm in Pollock. The rhythm in tantrum Pollock is extremely child-like, wayward and undisciplined; the rhythm sounds slapdash sloppy, sluggish, slack, slick; Pollock is a bad composer of paint; over orchestrating the paint so clogging-up the orchestral textures; whereas Bacon composes his scores with an exquisite economy of sounds so the image is never congested, or claustrophobic. Pollock should have listened to: Bach, Berg, Debussy, Ravel, Sibelius, Webern; painters need to listen to certain composers in order to be able to learn how to orchestrate their textural palette.




Abstract Figurism


Abstract Figureism is initiated in Brancusi, Marquet, Modigliani, Picasso, Jawlensky, Michaux and Bacon who abstract the figure and abstract the face without becoming completely abstract for abstracting is not the same as abstraction; abstracting is essenceing and essentialising and economising as a further refining of daseining as a stripping down of sein, so to speak, to its pre-ego, essential-eggism, as it were, as it was, as it is, as a primordial presence. Abstract Figureism is dreadfully difficult to achieve and not so as easy and not so as lazy as the vast majority of Abstract Expressionist artworks are and which remain at the level of dreary decoration without dasein which is appealing in its abstracted abjectness of navigating the nothing. But nothing comes from nothing: and it is this very nothing that is refreshing and revealing as a reflection upon nothing that matters most of all; as the materiality of mind mindfully manifesting the nothing-here. Abstract Expressionism always works so well in bank lobbies because it mirrors the mirrorlessness of the facelessness of corporate capitalism: there-where-there is nothing-there happening-there. Ruben Pang is one of the finest painters of Abstract Figureism today: far finer than the pastiche plagiarism of Glenn Brown who abillustrated paint through a vigorous virtuosity. Pang is a ‘semi-abstract’ painter who paints ‘Panglossian paint’ where the paint is ‘the pantheistic’ paint-in-itself initiated in the plush-pantalets-paint of Glenn Brown and pantomime-pope-paint of Francis Bacon:


“Up until recently, it has always been a mix of techniques, personalities, systems of composition, which I’ve adapted, from artists that I admire. — Early on, David Reed’s finesse with the blade was what I wanted to add to the arsenal of painting techniques. Later on Glenn Brown’s ability to simulate speed and violence with almost pixel perfect control taught me a different way of constructing an image. These came in addition to the staples like Flemish and Italian old masters Over time I start to see where in this spectrum I tend to fall into, for example, its hard for me to paint without adding in some details even if its a flat expanse of color, I start obsessing over the consistency. I think this exercise is just another step in getting to know yourself. I’ve always heeded Bacon’s advice for young artists: ‘a painter must paint, even if only out of imitation.’ Right now I’m obsessed with finding new ways to operate on the human figure, or to be more accurate, the character. One of the questions I’m dealing with now is: How do we paint so that the empathy is for the character in the painting and less so for the artist painting it? It’s tricky for me because I think once you start stylizing, distorting and adding yourself into the picture, the megalomania, the narcissism, the self portrait forced onto something else, these things become more prominent.” Ruben Pang, in an Exclusive Interview with Ruben Pang, The Artling, October 02, 2015.


Like Turner and Bacon, Pang is able to hold on’ to an identifiable familiar reality whilst also being abstractly alien, which is the economy of the uncanny in Freud. Pang does not fall into inane ‘illustration’ which we witness with Jenny Saville who still slavishly draws in the eyes and draws in the nose and draws in the mouth despite saying: “I like the down and dirty side of things. I don’t like things to be too polished. We’ve got fashion magazines for that.” Yet Saville’s dirt is disingenuous because Saville’s dirt is so clean; and Saville’s computer-generated photo-shop’ paint is polished and pristine’. Saville states: I paint flesh because I’m human. If you work in oil, as I do, it comes naturally. Flesh is just the most beautiful thing to paint. But safe Saville illustrates flesh; Saville does not paint flesh. The problem with sanitized Saville is that she is human all too human without being because one cannot be a human being’ because there is no such being for us ‘to be human’ after all before all above all below all aside all abide all about all within all without all with where all. If Saville were savvily, then shed get away from illustration’: So why does slave Saville still illustrate’ the eyes whilst brave Bacon was ‘bellicose’ (full of bravo-bravura) to do the eyesoutside illustration’, as in Study for Head of Lucian Freud, 1967?

So where is the ‘oil’ of the ‘paint’? Where is the work in oil? Yet Savilles dry (blood-less) paint is fleshless because it is paintless and this is simply because Saville has no dasein and so the paint is daseinless and fleshless. The clinical, sterile and anodyne paintingless-paintings of Saville produce no shudder in the spectator because the paint is cleansed-purified of being stripped of being where being has become extinct where the paint has no life and this is because the painter has no dasein. The way the painter manipulates the being of the paint there will always reveal the levels and the intensities of the there dasein. Saville is too scared and timorous to reinvent realism to reinvent the features of the face, unlike panglossian Pang who has bravely painted portraits without literally filling in all the features. Rubato Ruben Pang is the greatest living non-illustrational portraitist today. Paradoxically saponaceous, saplessness Savilles obese female figures are not elephantine, not gargantuan, not colossal but are: ontologically infinitesimal without volume, without weight, being blown-up ontic-balloons.

The greatest abstract landscapist was arguably Turner who has never been unsurpassed because Turner was able to be absolute-abstract whilst paradoxically recording an actual-specific image-fact of natural dasein; we see this in the late oil sketches and late watercolours which are in fact contemporary art’, much more advanced and ahead of Pollock and Rothko whose works appear as always coming well before Turner; thus here Turner deconstructs the construction of linear (historical’) time thus making an absurdity of art history’ simply because: Turner clearly came way after Pollock and Rothko whom obviously pre-date Turner. Degas pastels clearly come after Auerbachs charcoals. Art is the ontological evidence that time does not exist for artworks: for artworks work outside of time for artworks know of no time knowing there is no time; art is the radical realisation that time does not exist. There can be no: art history. Art is always being without history. Art is the always instead of history. Art has no history. Art has no time. Art has no time for history. When we are with art we are without time, we are without history. So those who still nominate themselves as Art Historians’ obviously do not know that ‘the ontology of artworks’ rigorously ‘work at’ tirelessly, timelessly, deconstructing: Art History’.






                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Mouth Mural 2017-2018  Ruben Pang





The ironic impossibility of ‘art history’ 


Jenny Saville is not a ‘contemporary’ of Ruben Pang because Jenny Saville is not ‘now’ but (back) ‘then’ just as Anthony Gormely is not ‘now’ but (back) ‘then’ because Henry Moore is much more modern than Anthony Gormley: this can be directly demonstrated at Tate Modern where we witness, Untitled' (for Francis), 1985, by Gormely juxtaposed with Composition, 1932, by Henry Moore: Hence here you will see straight away that Henry Moore is still working ‘now’, whereas Gormley is long deceased and no longer working ‘now’ for Untitled' (for Francis), 1985, is unwittingly akin to the National Socialist Nude Statues of the Third Reich although arguably Arno Breker had much more ‘style’, ‘bravura’ and ‘panache’ than Anthony Gormley whose academically anodyne furtive fugitive figures are aptly gormless. ‘Timeless Art’ throws ‘Art History’ out of Time, for all time, for all of no time. Jenny Saville and Anthony Gormely are not ‘working now’ as such, per se, since there is no ‘presence of nowness’ in their work but only a second-hand ‘back-theness’ yet without that there-then of ‘theness-thereing.’

So Henry Moore comes well after Anthony Gormley (and not before as commonsense ‘art history’ mistakenly assumes). Likewise, Jean-Honoré Fragonard is an exact ‘contemporary’ of Francis Bacon, and working ‘now’, whilst Jenny Saville is long deceased working way back then unable to paint with the daring modernity of Fragonard (that is outside of illustration). So Fragonard comes well after Saville, just as say Cézanne comes well after Cubism (and not before as commonsense ‘art history’ mistakenly always lazily just assumes). Thus Francis Bacon was absolutely correct in stating that Cubism is nothing more than a kind of decoration on Cézanne.”   

So why is Moore so much more modern than Gormley? That is the question. So why is Fragonard so much more modern that Saville? That is the question. Why are Velázquez, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Titian, Sargent, Cézanne, Sickert, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Boccioni, Brâncuși, Soutine, Picasso, Jawlensky, Moore, and Bacon still ‘contemporary’ as more advanced than our artists today (Pang excluded)? Is it that painters and sculptors today are in a stagnant sterile state of anti-aesthetic regression? Again: Why is Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,1913, by Umberto Boccioni so blatantly (and brazenly) more modern (more ‘contemporary’) than the later Walking Man, 1989 by Elisabeth Frink? Artists fuck time-over; artists fuck time-off; for artists are always fucking with the time, fucking up time, not giving a fuck about the time, knowing time is fucked, totally fucking time.

Why are conductors Arturo Toscanini, Otto Klemperer, Hans Rosbaud or Bruno Maderna far more ‘contemporary’ (modern sounding) than Frans Brüggen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, or Roger Norrington? Arturo Toscanini, Otto Klemperer, Hans Rosbaud and Bruno Maderna sound so fresh, so now, (‘contemporary’) than Frans Brüggen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, or Roger Norrington. Why cant conductors conduct Beethoven today? Why cant artists art today? To see why: please peruse a current Christies or Sothebys Contemporary Art Auction catalogue and you will all see straight away that everything is identically inane and mundane; dreary and deeply depressing: it is all depressingly daseinless: So if you want to feel deep depression buy yourself a Christies or Sothebys Contemporary Art Auction catalogue. (Bar Bacon who does not belong in a Contemporary Art Catalogue and uncannily looks uncomfortably out-of-joint but then, Bacon is an Old Master after all. Christies and Sothebys should sell their Bacon in the Old Masters auctions where Bacon rightly belongs; conversely, the Old Masters are still our only true contemporaries. Ancient Egyptian Art is also after Contemporary Art, being ahead of the contemporary by being: the art of a future to come.




The Aesthetic Paradox


Why does ‘Contemporary Art’ always look so ‘old fashioned’, so dated, and done back then whilst ‘Old Masters’ always look so ‘modern’ and afresh and done just now? What does this say of time, of evolution, of progression, of a development? Why is so-called ‘Primitive Art’ always so much more modern than so-called: ‘Modern Art? What does this say of time, of evolution, of progression, of development? Why does old Bach always sound so much more modern than Boulez? Why is Bach always so ‘contemporary’ and Boulez always so ‘dated’? Bach is Timeless. The cliché that: ‘great art is timeless’ is true: the cliché is true: a cliché is always true: to speak in clichés is to speak in truths: to write in clichés is to in write truths. It is true that great art is timeless; if art is not timeless then it is not true and so it is not art: ‘conceptual art’ and ‘contemporary art’ are necessarily-by-necessity done on time, done in time because they are ‘temporally correct’ (that is ‘aesthetical correctness’ akin to ‘political correctness’ and ‘aesthetic correctness’ is heard in effete and etiolated ‘period-instrument’ performances of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven where the vivaciously virile ‘masculinity’ of the music is eschewed and negated as heard in Harnoncourt conducting Beethoven Symphonies. The odious oxymoron of ‘conceptual art’ is the: ‘aesthetically incorrect’. Art, by: ‘being mindless’, cannot be: ‘conceptual’. Art, by: ‘being timeless, cannot be: ‘contemporary’. Art is: the ‘total refusal’ of the ‘temporal’. Art is: the ‘total refusal’ of the ‘conceptual’.







                                                                                                                                                                                          Ruben Pang, Theatre No. 9, 2011





Facetract Multiverseism


Ruben Pang is a Facetract Painter. A painter of facetracts that come-to-face-us-all as embodied-endogenous-explosive-exogenous face-places-body-scapes escaping and displacing the anatomical-face and anatomical-body for the astrological-face and multiverseical-body where the face-place-body-space are anchored welded-with the cosmological wired-within the ontological of future-faces and becoming-bodies to come already available through the vivacious-vision of perturbing Pang who insightfully shows us all what will become of us all, once and for all, all for and once, when we have lost all our odiously obnoxious and horrendous humid human appearance as Pang paints out of this world maintaining itself in its pure-becoming being-nothing seeming to be ebbing being becoming being as betweening being to be seeming because we do not yet know how things will go with our appearances and disappearances where seeming and being are a beautiful-beleaguered bewildering-blending of our concealing-revealing becoming-alien from being-human moving-toward the future of our alien-condition from the past of our out of condition of being human: Pang portrays us as we will become and not as we once were. The art critic, still ‘interpellated’ as ‘being-human’, will not be able to ‘identify’ the being-alien portraits of Pang: but any aliens amongst us will instantly recognise the ‘alien-condition’ that Pang passionately paints as already here and now: for our future is presently present here as always already alien and as alien to the always ‘alienated human’, who is, for Pang, something past and to be forgotten. The Being of alien beings essentially unfolds and reveals itself from seeming-to-be to being-to-be ‘alien being’ in the plush paintings of panging Pang.




Placetract Earthism.


Robert Natkin was abstractly nominated as an Abstract Painter. Robert Natkin was a Placetract Painter. A painter of places that come-to-mind being-mind-places rather than geographical-places for places-come-to-mind which are ontological as non-geographical as non-biological for ontological-places are mind-scapes that we inhabit when not in the world that does not exist for the places of mind know there is no world to be in even if there is an earth to dwell in and the economy of earth is utterly other to that of the worldless-world which is not our-earth: for planet-earth inhabits mind-places for-us to be-there as a dwelling-dasein where there is no world to wonder in, where there is no world to wander in, only an earth to mind in as a place to be in out-of-body-in-of-mind where there is no place like home: for the no here is the no home of being home at mind for in your mind you are always at home when you are far from being-home for only when I leave home can I be at home on earth in mind anywhere any time so I am only ever free when not at home but on the road for to be truly free is to be-on-the-road far-from-home free from property that is my unfreedom for property is nothing more than a coffin confining one to an absolute-alienation as a total-fear of being-free for your desire for a property is your fear of freedom. And property is not a place. And we are not persons but potential freedoms as places way from properties of un-freedom. We are not persons but places as places-displaced places-dispersed places-disseminated places dis-membered. Those that own property are ironically ontologically homeless-beingless-daseinless-placeless. We must refuse being interpellated into an incarcerating ideology of possessing property for property ferments a fear of the other propertyless places. For: Robert Natkin and Clyfford Still saw a: freedom-in-being-homeless-as-being-at-home-in-the-world-in-knowing-that-no-one-owns-a-home-in-the-world-without-a-home.





The Economy of the Throw


Bacon threw paint with precision for Bacon did not like the look of what he called ‘thrown about paint’ knowing that it lacked the controlled chance he so subconsciously aimed at. Throwing is one shot, throwing is one being but what do we do after the throw? Bacon would know: either leave it there being-there or manipulate it there and then. Bacon also knew that the time one ‘spent’ meant nothing and that often ‘the best things happened fast’ and the worst things were clogged by over working and it is precisely this laboured and heavy-handed over-working we find in Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff where the paint is murdered by being muddied and mannered: (‘man-handled’); de Kooning and Pollock were ‘kak-handed’ throwing tantrums with their ‘dirty cell protests’ (but splattering shit; instead of smearing stinking shit across the prison-cells of their claustrophobic-canvases).

One throw by Bacon has more intensity than the multiple throws, or drips, by Pollock because the more throws and rips one has there thrown-there dripped-there then the less intensity they have for they collectively cancel each other out; this is why Bacon was always spare with his throws and drips and this sparse sparseness gives the throw or the drip its intensity; if you were to juxtapose a claustrophobic Pollock bang next to an agoraphobic Bacon you would instantly have this sensation of the Bacon single shots and single drips have much more intensity, impact or poignancy than the serial throws and drips of Pollock; one throw or one drip hits the nervous system much more poignantly and intensely than multiple throws and multiple drips; analogous to the multiple and constant percussion in heavy metal music as also having less intensity than the singular timpani strokes in Mahler or Stravinsky or Shostakovich or Schoenberg; it is a sparse economic orchestration that gives percussion its intense punctuating poignancy as heard in Bacon’s orchestral ovoid ‘black stabbed’ timpani strokes; the timpani-part passages heard in Wagner’s Rheingold and in Strauss’s Elektra have exactly the same ‘sparse score’ exiguous economy of composition as we heard in Bacon's Study of Portrait of P.L. from Photographs, 1963.







                                                                                                                                                                Inge Borkh (1921–2018) – The Grain in The Voice








The Sound of the Paint: Sound Bites


What we are trying to get at here is that Pollock over orchestrates, and over cooks, rather like Strauss and Mahler, whilst Bacon is more akin to Berg or Webern. Musical analogy is important and significant since both Pollock and Bacon were musical painters rather than visual where the paint makes sound where we hear the paint before we see the paint with our bodies; Bacon and Pollock, like Rothko and Jawlensky, were essentially nonvisual painters if that makes sense. The eye of the mind sees the paint through sound; vibrations of paint as musical waves. Abstract Figureism and Abstract Expressionism are musical rather than visual and heard by the mind-eye of the body-ear without vision if that makes sense. Here seeing is hearing; we hear the paint as a sight of sound silently echoing exogenous being there as a vibration-sensation of mesmerising musing-musical memory-murmurs Silence is heard even more subtly in the smear; that smear on being as the smear of being as being smeared in public as being smeared in private where smears are signs of smudged being and stretched being and stain being as the smear like the stain cannot be wiped away as we all know by now that the more that you rub at a stain or a smear then the larger it becomes so the deeper it goes as do the smears in the third panel of the 1953 Three Studies for the Human Head that Sylvester could not even sell for £60 since it looked like a smear on the character of Sylvester as smeared by Bacon (who learnt early on the elegant economy of the suave smear through the sound of slapping as well as being smeared with certain substances. For Bacon the smear is a sound and for Bacon paint pertains to certain sounds of dread-dasein where paint stabs, paint smears, produce particular stain-sounds of our being-there; for we hear paint before we see paint in Bacon imagery. The pungently-poignant primordial-paint sound-world of Bacon is heard in the scores such as Pelleas und Melisande by Schöenberg and Asrael Symphony, Opus 27 by Josef Suk. The nervous-system somehow hears the paint before the eyes see the paint; paradoxically, the scream in Bacon is never heard only seen; the scream is serene in Bacon, made in pleasure so not made in pain; the scream in Bacon is the scream from fucking, the scream from being-fucked; the scream of the the abject-sublime ‘jouissance’ of ‘being-fulfilled’, filled full of completed-jouissance that only the homosexual seems to ever experience; because boring heterosexuals like Lacan and Žižek were never ever able ‘to cum’ to experience a completed (fulfilled) jouissance so this then is the ‘heterosexual-lack’. The pleasure of the paint in Bacon negates the pain in the Bacon Scream. The Scream of Bacon is not of the same sound as the Scream of Munch. For Bacon, the Scream presents the abysmal-origins of our abjected jouissances: jettisoned-pleasures: (being without meaning). Bryan Robertson revealed the beautiful found in the ugliful when comparing the brittle sound heard in Callas to the brittle sound heard in Bacon:

“Perhaps the banal handling of paint describing a hypodermic syringe in his last show was deliberate: if Callas can make an ugly sound for solid dramatic reasons Bacon can do the equivalent with pigment.” Bryan Robertson, Behind the Pulpit, The Spectator, Friday, 13 August, 1965. What is uncannily described as an ugly sound merely means a sound alien to our commonsense construction of a beautiful sound for: Inge Borkh, Maria Callas, Billie Holiday, Big Mama Thornton, Della Reese, Leonie Rysanek did not have what is commonsenseically classified as having a beautiful voice. The burly or tough textures of sound heard from Jon Vickers are akin to the muscular strident sounds heard in the abpaint of Francis Bacon. Whilst both Bacon and Heidegger were not musical men, their paintings and writings were immensely musical and poetical with both operating outside of illustration. To: truly hear the raspy sounds in the paintings of Bacon, one first has to: hear: Borkh, Callas, Holidaydl, Rysanek, Vaughan, Vickers, for, here: the grain-in-the-voice presents: the grain-in-the-paint.




Attaining Absolute Jouissance: The Grain the Voice as the Grain in the Paint


Francis Bacons paint is predominantly vocal but not the sound of the scream but the grain in the voice as the grain in the paint as heard in Inge Borkh, Maria Callas, Judy Garland, Leontyne Price, Leonie Rysanek, Astrid Varnay, Sarah Vaughan and Ljuba Welitsch for it is all of these sublime-singers of absolute-jouissance that echo-sensation the ab-sounds of Bacons ab-paint as ‘the grain in the voice’ being the grain in the paint; and such singers always risked their voices gambling on the gain in the voice to paint the primal scene as heard in Bacons vocal paint. I succinctly remember seeing a Billie Holiday LP in Bacon’s studio in 1982 as Holiday epitomises the grain in the voice as the pain in the voice echoing through the pain in the paint through the grain in the paint that is the grain in the voice coming through the paint which is always ‘aural’ before it is visual in Bacons paintings that are primarily operatic and vocal rather than theatrical and visual. So not surprisingly like the sung paint of Bacon: Borkh, Callas, Garland, Mödl, Price, Rysanek, Varnay, Vaughan or Welitsch sang straight to the nervous system by passing the intellect and illustration (narrative) through their grainy-visceral ‘ab-sounds’ and so when we hear these grainy ‘ab-voices’, we also hear Bacon’s ‘grainy’ ab-paint that thus then attains an absolute-jouissance-in-itself dissolving descriptive discourse rendering the ridiculous odious and obnoxious art critics redundantly obsolete and oblivious: as Bacons abpaint there is nothing to be said nothing to be written: as all art analysis is anal: diarrhetic-diatribes; but: ‘art critics’ are fucked-up because they are both ‘anally-retentive’ (being-full-of-shit) whilst verbosely ‘being-diarrhetic’ (spastically-shitting a kak-cascade of liquid-faeces).

The raspy-grainy paint of Bacon and the raspy-grainy voices of Borkh, Callas, Garland, Mödl, Price, Rysanek, Varnay, Vaughan, and Welitsch all attain an ‘absolute-jouissance’ that thus bypass the ‘symbolic-scene’ (representation) by being the presentation of an attainable object as the real object of desire which was attained from the the grain-in-the-paint and the grain-in-the-voice (even if Lacanians aka Zizekians – largely white-privileged heterosexual-males – cannot ever attain an absolute-jouissance).  Bacon, Borkh, Callas, Garland, Mödl, Price, Rysanek, Varnay, Vickers, Welitsch do not represent the real-thing of absolute-jouissance but rather present it raw as-it-is as absolute-jouissance of the real-thing of the real-infinite-in-itself initiating infinity-in-itself since the sounds of the paint and the sounds of the voices are articulators-arbiters of inserting-initiating infinities in immortals making mortalities into immortals thus there is no death-drive for our dasein knows no death and thus the dasein-drive knows we are immortal-infinite instead where we know no finitude where we know no life where we know no death drive; for the grain of the paint and the grain of the voice immediately imbues-inserts infinities-immortalities into ‘dasein-drives’ where we are wetted with paint, wetted with voice as deliriously-drenched in delicious-dasein of an attained-absolute ‘juicy-jouissance. For us today the grain-in-the-paint and the grain-in-the-voice are something past, as, for us today, Dasein has become: something past.






                                                                                                                                                            Detail from the third panel of Three Studies of the Human Head, 1953





Paint as Flesh


The fleshness of the paint can only ever be achieved by the freshness of the paint and Bacon loved the paint to be very fresh like freshly whipped-cream or all that luxurious-cuisine that glistens and sizzles so seductively since one can actually smell as well as taste the culinary paint of Bacon that is always edifyingly edible as you want to eat the paint much more than you want to look at the paint as it is the taste of the paint that matters most indeed matters moist in Bacon yet the acrid taste of the dry paint in Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff is absolutely awful, tasting rancid and bitter and sour, made with cheap ingredients, and always over cooked and too dry, and impossible to digest. What does the paint of Bacon taste like as it is not a neutral-disinterested paint or plain food and certainly not plane food as the paint of Bacon is not just a question of taste that is aesthetics as paint being a question of good taste as having good taste but also a question of sound for how does the paint of Bacon sound like or rather what sounds do paint passages and paint slashes and paint blobs make when you come across them and you listen to them for the first time for the paint of Bacon is ontologically and primarily musical as certain sounds are produced by certain paint skid marks that go straight to the mind and the body so bypassing our brained consciousness altogether: Bacon’s paint is flesh always already because, just like Rembrandt and Fragonard in their own ways, was able to originate the raw-flesh of the oil-paint as: pure presence.


“The study of a standing female nude by Francis Bacon in the Marlborough Fine Art show of 19th and 20th-century masters is not usually considered to be one of his outstanding works. There’s a routine look about the calculated strangeness of the setting and the colour has been brushed onto floor and walls with an unpleasant streakiness. The woman herself is not a pretty sight. Her belly sags and her arms are so simian in length that she can clasp her hands down by her knees without bending forward. She’s as grotesquely lumpish in her way as the Willendorf Venus. The picture was painted in 1961 and seems to have been in the gallery’s stock ever since. From time to time it’s sent to exhibitions abroad, but it always comes back, and whenever I see it again I’m glad that I once described Bacon, without a ‘perhaps’ or even a ‘probably’, as the greatest painter of flesh since Renoir. He doesn’t attempt to simulate flesh: it’s as if the paint with which he forms a human figure is itself of flesh — a substance that bruises easily and grows scabs over its wounds and is scarcely out of the tube before it has been mottled and distorted by half a lifetime of misery and pleasure. The woman on exhibition stands in the middle of what appears to be a well-lighted cell, and by leaving her, exposed and humiliated, to the tender mercies of the spectator he turns everyone who clasps eyes on her into a compulsive interrogator. What brought you to this? A hint of gracefulness in her stance and of graciousness in her face are like dim recollections of lost attributes, and the paint is so involved with the subject that we don’t know whether we are trying to evaluate a painting or passing judgement on our confused response to a woman.

Robert Melville, Lost Attributes, Art, The New Statesman, Friday July 29, 1966


Bacon was well aware that painting was coming to an end whilst painting was paradoxically maybe not paradoxically at all beginning to start; for the ends of painting are the signs of the beginnings of painting as the ending of art always marks the beginning of art yet art can never get started whilst art can never get ended as art is the refusal of the beginning and the refusal of the ending erasing the dasein-delusion that was once nominated as Art History for Bacon knew more than any Art Historian of the impossibility of Art History knowing that so-called Ancient Egyptian Art was always afresh-anew and ahead of so-called Contemporary Art which is always so dated. But Bacon was also well aware that with the advent of photography painting was just beginning just beginning again just beginning all over again as painting after photography, which is painting ahead of photography, leaving photography retarded and redundant because the photograph always lies as well all know for none of us look like that which is why there are no photographic portraits per se: because the camera remains locked at the illusory level of instant illustration unable to record the duration-dasein of portrait-painting where taking-the-time-is-imperative-in-painting-the-portrait as Rembrandt reveals: Rembrandt, Titian, and Velázquez are the essential painters of over time painting the ontology of time all the time in time in real time in real being which gives their time-being protracts their poignant-presence of passing-through-time all-the-time being-in-time and out-of-time at the same time: their timelessness is their timefullness: great abart is precisely timeless because it is precisely timefull: the radicality of great abart announces to us all the absolute impossibility of a so-called ‘art history’ or of any ‘history’; yet time tricks us into our imagining that time passes, that there is: a past, that: time-passes-us-by, that: time-moves-on, that: we still all imagine that we have a past, that: our past is all over.







                                                                                                                                                                                            Francis Bacon, Two Americans,  1956






Illustrating contra Painting


The mind and the body read abstract expressionism and non-illustrational portraiture through the mind of the body and the body of the mind bypassing the brain because the non-illustrational paint acts upon the nervous system before it is interpreted’ intellectually by the brain. Our mind-body and body-mind are a no-brainer as a non-braining as non-intellectual (non-thinking) read the raw-paint as primordial-stuff without an intellectual reference for there is nothing out there to refer it’ to because ontological-paint being-primordial is the extra-empirical and not the commonsense-empirical of intellectual-insight that cannot see paint in itself as itself as it were as it was as it is. The art critic tends to use the brain to read the painting rather than using the body to read painting or using the mind to read paining because art critics’ tend to be bodiless and tend to be mindless as a whole as a hole as it were. One rarely sees an art critic with a body that is wearing a body on that is having a body. Thus the disembodied art critic’ tends to use the head to think through rather than think with the body rather than thing through the body; for one often wonders, doesn’t one, whether the art critic has a body, or: even what type of body that the art critic has, as it was; or: even if the art critic is simply just a nobody, as it were.

My brain does not read abstraction expressionism or non-illustrational portraiture and so my work and the work of Francis Bacon are far closer to abstract art than to figurative art which is still ‘interpellated’ into ‘illustrational’ photorealism which, paradoxically, always looks so unreal; as Bacon correctly stated: the more artificial that you make something, the more chance you have of making it look real. It is so unsettlingly uncanny that hyper-realist’ (photorealist) portraiture never actually looks real because what is real is never sharp or in focus; which is also why we cannot be photographed because the face is that refusal of photography since the skin resists the site of film which is of another skin and the ontic-eye of the camera is alien to the eye of ontology which is why there are no photographs which can render-record the face as only paint can render-record the face real of being human or alien or otherwise: photographic portraiture is an odious oxymoron because the face cannot be photographed because the face stretches over time all in time not now but forever nows. When we meet Bacon in the meat, in the flesh, in the being, then we immediately realise what was always absolutely absent from photographs of Bacon: those frozen-frissons that Bacon emanated, pulsated, vibrated, agitated, in himself out of himself and in his paint and out of his paint. Indeed: when we see Bacon’s paint juxtaposed with Savilles paint we immediately bear-witness to a class-antagonism of abpaint where Bacon’s paint comes across as suave, refined, charming, elegant; aristocratic, high class; whist Savilles paint comes across as crude, crass, common; tawdry and gaudy; harsh and brash, that is, profoundly proletariat and working-class (even if Saville has high-bourgeois manicured hands’, and Bacon had ‘hard labour workers claws; yet it was Bacon who had the high-class aristocratic hand when painting, and it was Saville who has the working-class proletariat hand when painting. Such is the class distinction of the hand as that claw. We simply must not forget that Picasso had a claw, not a hand, and, do remember that the bourgeois Picasso had a hybrid aristocratic-communist’ claw.

Servile Saville mimics a sort of slap-dash faked free-hand cut-and-paste brush-stroke as a pseudo spontaneity pastiche-painting particularly poorly reminiscent of twentieth-century German Expressionism; Saville’s pseudo-brush-strokes always come across as crude, coarse, common and callously-contrived lacking the finesse and eloquence and panache of Bacon’s highly-refined and sophisticated aristocratic paint-brush-strokes. Saville claims to be indebted to Bacon whilst remaining at the lazy-level of inane-illustration for why does Saville always illustrate but never paint the eyes, the ears, the nose and the mouth? Saville never reinvents realism unlike: Rembrandt, Fragonard, Turner, Van Gogh, Sargent, Degas, Sickert, Picasso, Nolde, Soutine, Auerbach and Bacon, who reinvented realism by doing facial features outside of inane illustration; so thus, therefore, they all come after Saville who, aesthetically reactively’ speaking, predates them all; and, why is it that: when we look at Saville’s portraits they instantly all look-like: ‘coloured-in-photographs’ like clinically-slickly: ‘stencilled-in’.






                                                                                                                                                                                  Alexander Verney-Eliott, Self-Portrait, 1981






                                                                                                                                                                     Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1965






                                                                                                                                                                  Alexander Verney-Elliott, Self-Portrait after Emil Nolde, 1981







                                                                                                                                                                                          Emil Nolde, Frauen Portrait mit Hut, 1907







                                                                                                                                                                         Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964






                                                                                                                                                                    Alexander Verney-Elliott, Non-Illustrational Self-Portrait, 1981






                                                                                                                                                                                          Francis Bacon, Study for Self-Portrait, 1976







                                                                                                                                                                                               Alexander Verney-Elliott, Self-Portrait, 1981








                                                                                                                                                                                        Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of George Dyer, 1963







Bacon contra Saville


Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965) and Emil Nolde, Frauen Portrait mit Hut (1907) have cordially requested that Jenny Saville Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011) be removed from being juxtaposed placed alongside themselves; artworks, as a rule, on the whole, in roundabout way, do not entertain the idea of being placed next to certain ‘types’ of artworks, and, as a rule, on the whole, like to be ‘left alone’; for both Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965) and Emil Nolde, Frauen Portrait mit Hut (1907) found something so disingenuous and inauthentic about Jenny Saville Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011) with it being utterly devoiding dasein: since it did not ‘sit’ there, since it did not ‘fit’ there, as it were, as it was. Due to circumstances beyond our control we have now removed Jenny Saville Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011). We apologise for any stress caused.  Bacon and Nolde were said to be heart-broken, and extremely-angry, and so dumbfounded at being so insensitively, and so violently, juxtaposed directly next to the appallingly awful, sanitary Saville.

Juxtaposing Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011) by Jenny Saville between Francis Bacon and Emil Nolde we can then immediately see just how crude and crass and clinically sterile Saville really is and how fake the mock paint is as a meretricious mimicry of painting with paint. The eyes are pure photoshop illustration surrounded by pastiche paint strokes to give it that painterly look but Saville does not understand the economy of paint as Saville simply has no style or finesse with her portraits looking so poor and so proletariat in their commonness which of course is profoundly politically correct (even if they are aesthetically incorrect’). Why does Saville not paint the eyes like the rest of the face with free brush strokes (even if those free brush strokes are anything but ‘free’)? In Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011), the eyes and the teeth are lazy illustration’ where Saville simply illustrates the eyes and simply illustrates the teeth without painting the eyes, without painting the teeth, and thus completely unable, or, maybe, just stubbornly unwilling, to reinvent realism’, as rightly requested and quested by Bacon. Jenny Saville should examine the non-illustrational mouth (above) in the Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964) by Francis Bacon; and maybe then learn something; that is, learn to actually paint a mouth without illustrating a mouth, without photoshopping a mouth. It is totally meaningless for art critics to keep on making bogus comparisons and references to befouled Bacon when writing about sanitized Saville since they have absolutely nothing at all in common. To sell the Saville brand, they have to bring in the Bacon-brand to hard-sell the Saville-brand and it is this name-dropping’ that ‘sutures’ together utterly opposing ‘brand-names’.

Whilst Bacon cannot be reproduced’ in reproductions, and always looks so awful, Saville, somehow, always looks far superior in reproductions than in the flesh because the flat shiny glossiness of catalogue reproductions serve  illustration so serve Saville so well. Painterly painters such as Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez, Turner, Constable, Sargent, Monet, Soutine, Nolde, Jawlensky, Kossoff, Auerbach, Bacon can never be reproduced in reproduction and can only be seen live in the flesh. Inane ‘Illustrators’ such as: Bechtle, Close, Hockney, Maier, Ozeri, Saville only ever work well in reproductions and not live in the flesh’ because the paint is non-ontological and so there is nothing live and no flesh there. The paint of staid Saville is ontically dead and ontologically dead; whilst the abpaint of: Velázquez, Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Monet, van Gogh, Sargent, Sickert, Soutine, Nolde, Jawlensky, Kossoff, Auerbach and Bacon are ontically alive, and ontologically alive; paradoxically, there are few actual living painters’ around today, mainly, just: deading painters’ around today.

Non-Illustrational paint and Abstract Expressionist paint is raw to the core and so ontological whilst illustrational paint (photorealism to photo-shop) is necessarily non-ontological because the paint is not allowed to be’ in itself for itself. For Bacon and for Pollock it is the substance stuff of the paint thrown in a certain way that is the becoming of the ontology of paint where the wet paint, as Bacon says, has a life all of its own’, and lives on its own whilst illustrational paint is necessarily: dead paint. Safe Saville illustrates through filling-in-form (or painting-by-numbers) as a pastiche of painting without actually painting. Pang’s paint lives because Pang’s paint is ontological not illustrational. Pang has no fear of paint; paradoxically, staid Saville fears paint refusing to allow the paint ‘to be’ on-its-own to come-into-being to-be-paint-for-itself; Saville cannot make the paint come off’ whilst Pang can make paint come. Saville pretends to paint. Saville is not a painter per se; as such, Pang is a painter. This pretending-to-paint aptly comes across in the painting-by-numbers portrait Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011) where staid Saville illustrates’ the eyes, illustrates’ the nostrils, and ‘illustrates’ the teeth which are all surrounded by pseudo-paint brush-marks as post-modern pastiche-painting or a pretend-painting giving us the an illusion of paint’ as if painted-by-hand’. Sotheby’s catalogue notes stupidly ‘staple’ Saville to Bacon juxtaposing Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011), with Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965):

        “Executed on a monumental scale, Jenny Saville’s Witness is an extraordinarily seductive yet disquieting example of the artist’s iconic and provocative facture. Here abstract painterly marks meld, morph and collide together to form the armature of a woman’s head, thrown back in the throes of death with gushing blood-red painterly effusions oozing from her open mouth. Based on a photograph from a crime scene, Witness represents the culmination of a career long fascination with medical imagery, flesh, blood and wounds. Attesting to the raw, primitive power and unnerving honesty of the violence depicted in the present work, it was included in the notable exhibition Crash: Homage to J. G. Ballard at Gagosian Gallery, New York; an exhibition of works that celebrated the dark, car-crash fetishism of renowned novelist J. G. Ballard... Renowned for her richly layered, palimpsest approach to flesh and content, much like that of the British master and Saville’s idol Francis Bacon, Saville primarily works from memory in combination with auxiliary photographs, cutting and pasting different source images together to graft a new picture. Another deep-seated preoccupation that Saville shares with Bacon is an obsession with medical photographs, diseases, fleshy wounds and images of extreme humanness... Executed with Saville’s typical aplomb and artistic flourish, Witness is an absolute masterclass in tone and texture. Remarkable for its heightened use of colour, in the present work Saville has skilfully suffused her warm palette of rich, bloody crimsons and soft pinks with nuanced shades of complex cool blues and brilliant whites to pick out the subject’s limp and lifeless body and ghostly lips. Glutinous, energetic brush strokes dance across the canvas in bold exclamatory marks, exuding a captivating and palpable tactility that amplifies the work’s searing and intense realism.(Contemporary Art Evening Auction, Sotheby’s, Thursday, 15 October, 2015).

What is this: extreme humanness? Where is this alleged: absolute masterclass in tone and texture? Where is this: the work’s searing and intense realism? Why is Savilles realism so: unreal? Unwittingly, Witness (2009) bears witness to the end of painting where the brush-stroke is without da-sein; just as the human is without being. What is so uncanny about Witness (2009) is that it comes across as pure pastiche of painting; flat, flashy and flippant, meretricious and mannered; as parody of painting; as a forgery of painting having something so fake about it, having something so unpainted about it especially if you immediately juxtapose Witness (2009) with Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965) in the Sotheby catalogue. Art Historians would never ever be able to understand that Jenny Saville’s Witness (2009) was painted way before Emil Noldes, Frauen Portrait mit Hut (1907) unable to simply see how Nolde is far more of the post-modernist than the Saville who is still stuck in the late 19th century for our old Nolde paints the eyes outside of illustration whilst the staid Saville is only able to illustrate the eyes. If our old Rembrandt, our old Fragonard, our old Manet, our old Sickert, our old Sargent, our old Picasso, our old Nolde, our old Bacon, our old Auerbach (and our young Pang) can do the eyes outside of illustration then why the hell cant our old Saville do the eyes outside of illustration? She has no excuse now. The non-illustrational eyes, especially seen in Fragonard and Manet, especially seen in Sickert and Sargent, simply illustrate just how advanced and ahead they still are of our old scally Saville who clearly cannot do the eyes outside of academic illustration just like so many of her realist contemporaries’ (and which makes a complete mockery of the myth of art history’). Read again this hard-sell Saville-sale non-sense again as it was so typical of ‘auction catalogue blurb’: Witness is an absolute masterclass in tone and texture.





                                                 Bacon contra Illustration




                                                                                                                                                                   Study from Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1965) Francis Bacon





Bacon after Saville, Sickert after Saville  


Saville would do well to spend several hours at the Gagosian Francis Bacon Couplings exhibition and bare witness to actual real painting of facial features done outside illustration. Saville professed to admire Bacon, but never learnt from Bacon how to paint outside of illustration: so sanitized Saville must take her time and have a long look at: Two Figures on a Couch (1967), where the facial-features are non-illustrational; Portrait of a Man Walking (c. 1953), where the mouth is non-illustrational; Two Studies from the Human Body (1974-1975), where the mouth is non-illustrational; Sleeping Figure (1959) where the feet are non-illustrational; and intensely interrogate the ruggedly refined bravura brushwork in Two Figures (1953). Saville has no excuses now. Saville must try harder. Saville must closely cross examine the non-illustrational faces in Two Figures on a Couch (1967) and ask herself: Why am I still stuck in illustration and why am I unable to paint facial features outside of illustration as Bacon does so successful? Why am I still sutured to illustration? Saville must closely reread Bacon on illustration and critically reflect upon why she still cannot move beyond illustration; and while she is at it, Saville should also ask herself: Why is it that the illustrative literal realism never looks at all real? Why do the Saveloy Saville nudes look so lifeless, look so fleshless, look so bodiless, look so beingless; look so realless? Why is savouring Saville still enslaved, sutured to Illustration? Since Sickert and Bacon were: contra Illustration.

Saville would also do well to spend several hours at the Tate Britain Walter Sickert exhibition and bare wetness to actual real painting of facial features done outside illustration. Saville should salivate over the faces of the ‘Camden Town Murder’ series such as: La Hollandaise c.1906, Le Lit de Cuivre c. 1906, Nuit d’Été  c. 1906, Saville will see first-hand, first-face, that the faces are ‘done’ outside of illustration, and ‘done-in’, ‘finished-off’, ‘polished-off’, for our Sickert ‘sick-series’ have ‘the brutality of fact’ that our Saville numb-nudes do not have; and paradoxically, strangely still, Sickert’s small-scale nudes are, ontologically, actually, far larger ‘in-scale’ than Saville’s over-blown ‘blow-up’ (‘inflated’) numb-nudes. Also our Saville should carefully examine that ‘non-illustrational claw-come-hand in Two Women on a Sofa La Tose c. 1904; which, again, begs the question; why does Saville still lazily paint ‘drawn-in’ illustrational hands when Sickert was painting non-illustrational hands well over one hundred years ago? And Saville should certainly see Sickert’s Portrait of Jacques-Emile Blanche which is composed of non-illustrational ‘stabs’; why can’t salmi Saville ‘do’ that? In the ‘art historical sense’, Sickert, like Bacon, comes after Saville, and as such, so Velázquez and Rembrandt come after ‘old’ sapless Saville; in theory, in practise, salami Saville should, by now, surely now be able to paint figures in the ‘non-illustrational-manner’ in the way that Monet and Marquet and Michaux did because she obviously knows her ‘art history.’







                                                                                                                                                                 Francis Bacon, Study of Isabel Rwsthorne on White Ground, 1965







Painting has nothing to do with illustration, it is in a way its opposite, rather as decoration is also quite the opposite of painting.

Francis Bacon in conversation with Michael Archimbaud, 1991




 “I have to hope that my instincts will do the right thing, because I can’t erase what I have done. And if I drew something first, then my paintings would be illustrations of drawings. I want to create images that are a shorthand of sensation.”

Francis Bacon in conversation with Michael Kimmelman, 1989




Bacon loathed illustration, a mode which is dependent on an already defined world, and which obviously has a pre-resolved end in sight: it obviates discovery and chance. What happens on those canvasses is extra-verbal; its job is not to talk, but to be.

Jonathan Meades, The Observer Review, 29 December, 1996




I have always hoped to make portraits which went far away from the illustration of the person in front of me, but that I could bring back in a non-illustrational way to his real appearance.  —  Illustrations are rivets of reality. It's like nailing the reality o the image.

Francis Bacon: remarks from an interview with Peter Beard: 1975 




I try to make concentrations of images   Not illustration of reality but to create images which are a concentration of reality and a shorthand for sensation  —  If I drew it I’d just be making an illustration of the drawing  —  I paint images of sensation. What is life but sensation?

Francis Bacon in conversation with Melvyn Bragg: 1985




I have deliberately tried to twist myself, but I have not gone far enough. My paintings are, if you like, a record of this distortion. Now I want to do portraits more than anything else, because they can be done in a way outside illustration. It is a gamble composed of luck, intuition and order. Real art is always ordered no matter how much has been given by chance.

Francis Bacon, Cambridge Opinion, January, 1964




Its not all that difficult to sit down and illustrate a wave breaking on the shore, but thats just going to be one more illustration of a wave breaking on the shore, which is better done by photographs. And so you have to find a way by which you can present this wave breaking. The only real thing now in portraiture is to make not just an illustration of the person but to make an image of them.

Francis Bacon in conversation with Joshua Gilder: 1980




I’m trying to do some portraits now and Im just hoping that theyll come about by chance. I want to capture an appearance without it being an illustrated appearance. I dont know how much its a question of sensation about the other person. It’s the sensations within yourself. Its to do with the shock of two completely unillustrational things which come together and make an appearance.

Francis Bacon in conversation with Michael Peppiatt, 1982



The jump is Bacon’s, and it is made in a veritable assault on his own illustrational talent. It is not simply that he welcomes accident with the brush or a toss of paint. Rather, the need to render the reality in question (‘the fact you are obsessed by’) at the level at which it strikes the ‘nervous system’ prompts a desperate passage through what Deleuze aptly names after Maldiney a ‘catastrophe’ (Logique Sen., 67). In fact, this disruption is anything but wilful (though Bacon seems to have learned to modulate it), because Bacon emphasizes repeatedly words like ‘exasperation’, ‘hopelessness’, ‘frustration’, ‘despair’, ‘impossibility’, ‘abandon’, to describe what drives him to this passage. [ ... ] He must destroy illustration to release the image latent in sensation or offered to ‘instinct’ in this moment of passage by what may not be quite the ‘limit-experience’ portrayed in the crucifixion, but certainly an exposure to a presubjective dimension.

Christopher Fynsk, What remains at a crucifixion: nietzsche/bacon; The Eight Technologies of Otherness, Routledge: 1997




“Whatever people say, Ive got nothing of an expressionist. My painting isnt about expression, its about instinct. I dont express. I try to remake the image of reality that is in my mind. I dont want literal realism, illustration. To create realism without falling into illustration you have to invent a technique. Painters attempt from generation to generation to find ways of returning an image onto the nervous system. One by one, the techniques of the past wear out. Yet one still wants to paint the same things a body or a face. So you have to reinvent technique in order to find a new way of conveying something, such as a chair, onto the nervous system . . . All the painters who interest me have succeeded in doing this, and particularly Van Gogh, who did it in such an extraordinary way a very simple but also a very mysterious way. After all, who can say how they work those little touches of colour he covered the canvas with and which immediately convey or, better still, recreate a tree, a plant or grass?”

Francis Bacon interview with L’Express, 15—21 November, 1971




For example, I’m very interested in trying to do portraits, which now is almost an impossible thing to do, because you either make an illustration or a charged and meaningful appearance. It’s a continuous hazard, chance, or accident. I start, in a sense, almost like an abstract painter, although I hate abstract painting. I hate it because I think it can only end in decoration. But this dilemma ... how are you going to make a nose and not illustrate it? What stroke will make this nose a strong nose? Well, it’s chance. It is when for a moment chance has given you something which you can seize on and begin to build on. All the way through on anything of mine that works at all, it is like an accident that has slid into the right position.

Actually, I always know what I want to do but I never know how to do it. I plan, I think, I lay down all sorts of plans for myself about how it will be, or how it will look, but as I’m so reliant upon accident, it takes a long time for the accident to happen—for the sensation I want to come about, for my plans to fall into the form of reality that will satisfy me. I don’t begin by drawing on the canvas. I make marks and then I use all sorts of things to work with —old brooms, old sweaters, and all kinds of peculiar tools and materials. I know my paintings don’t look like that, but they start out like that because, you see, otherwise I should be making only illustrations. So that is the dilemma—perhaps the dilemma of all art today. Because if you know how to do something, it’s going to be just an illustration of an idea—and that’s not at all what I’m after.

Francis Bacon, A Night’s Journey and a Day, Vogue, 15 October, 1971




Bacon himself argues that he could very easily paint illustrative portraits, but that these have no interest for him and the use of profitable accident is central to the vitality of his work. In the twentieth century, Bacon argues, the illustrative function has altogether disappeared from art because photography and film have usurped that role, but at the same time abstract art has proved a dead letter.

Michael McNay, Accident control, The Guardian, 19 December, 1980




“When you think about British painters – Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach – they never really became abstract. There’s an abstraction within, but there’s still figuration. The danger if you’re more figurative, is that you can belittle things by describing them, or illustrating them. There’s always that fear. This is why I always say figuration is so much harder, because of that line you can cross into illustrating – just showing what something looks like.”

“Bacon is actually pretty flat, and of course he was very afraid of being an illustrator. I think he relied on the glass a lot, but he’s clever in directing the way the viewer looks. You can’t just get it straightaway. We look at things so much in reproduction, and of course, in reproduction you don’t get any of that, you just get the flat image. So many Americans don’t get Bacon, and I wonder if you really need to see it in the flesh, because if you see it in reproduction, it’s so flat.”

Cecily Brown on Francis Bacon; A Private View, September 4, 2020




Bacon claims explicitly to be a figurative artist, but in the course of the discussion he several times stresses his distrust of what he calls “illustration”—that is, a too literal transcription. Bacon’s work takes on the appearance of a battle conducted on two fronts, perpetually under threat of allowing itself to be dominated by one or other tendency and to fall either into abstraction or into illustration.

To paint figuratively without being illustrative is, if one sets about it rigorously, like trying to square the circle. For a long time Bacon attempted to solve this problem by speculating on what might be called the subjugation of chance. Chance intervenes in two ways: as pure accident, in the necessary uncertainties involved in the handling of a pencil or brush, and as provoked accident, whereby the painter would project paint on to his canvas more or less at random, and rub or smear those shapes that were becoming too lifelike and so restore chaos. Bacon exploited these effects either directly or by adopting them as suggestions, and they helped him to avoid an unduly straightforward figuration.

Michel Leiris, The Art of Francis Bacon, Times Literary Supplement, 18 March, 1977




Bacon was very much a performer, his art a display of making, unmaking and remaking. He spoke often of “illustration” as the thing to be avoided, to be destroyed by subjecting it to various controlled accidents — introducing the “irrational” and then “taking advantage of what happens when you splash the stuff down”. Bacon had an enormous, one might say an irrepressible gift for rendering a lively, fleshy surface, and the caricaturist’s knack of extracting a likeness from chaos. It was this illustrational impulse that required all the blots to disperse; it then recouped these blots into those disturbingly ungraspable swerves of flesh, half-optical blur, half-physical slurp.

Risk was at the heart of Bacon’s painting. There was the risk that the accident might prove unusable. There was also the risk that the image would coalesce into mere proficiency. In the scenes and portraits of the Sixties and Seventies, a delicate balance was maintained between the image and the virtuoso formal invention. But the illustration was always lurking there, sustaining the effects, and sometimes peeping through a little too much — suggesting that if the distorting operation was suspended entirely, only a glib facility would emerge. In the paintings of the Eighties those ungraspable ectoplasmic manifestations settled down into something straighter. Faces appeared in slick and often cute solidity — the flesh only marginally smeared, the once-evanescent highlights landing as a blob on the end of a nose. The bodies became twisted and amputated cartoons, a Disney nightmare. The artist’s hand and illustrative skill were then on show too clearly.

Tom Lubbock, So much for Bacon the man: what of the work?, ARTS, The Independent on Sunday, 3 May, 1992




“The problem for Bacon, when painting the head, is how to ally the strongest possible dose of verifiable reality to the strongest dose of inspired risk. He has to know what answers are already on the file, but he also knows that he cannot reuse them. “The moment you know what to do,” Bacon once said, “you’re making just another form of illustration.” The painter has to tread with one foot on the ground that is common to all of us, and with the other on ground that no one has essayed before. Without the one, the picture could not be read; without the other, it would be at best a meritorious re-make. The results work on many levels. Somewhere within the half-lengths, for instance, are familiar stances of baroque portraiture. We know just where we are with the grand swirling double neckline of the portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne which the Tate has just bought. But, among the many portraits of this sitter, no two are in the least alike, though the same identifiable human presence can be felt in all of them. The illustrative image is destroyed over and over again in the interests of new insights into human dignity. Very little in recent figure-painting can stand up to Bacon: but an exception is the self-portrait of 1956-57 in the Bomberg retrospective at the Tate. This exemplifies Bacon’s belief that “the mystery of fact” can be conveyed by an image made up of “non-rational marks.” For there is nothing descriptive or illustrative about the Bomberg, and yet the known features are there, as vividly as they were in life. Yet late Bomberg is often overshadowed by the brilliance and power of the work done before 1914.

 John Russell, The human presence, Art, The Sunday Times, 12 March, 1967





“When Bacon made his distinction between illustrational and nonillustrational form, his preference was obviously for the latter, for the form which works upon the nervous system, bypassing memory and expectation. And yet he is a realist in the sense that he paints immediately recognizable objects and forms from the observed world in a pictorial language that is predominantly accessible, and when ambiguous, deliberately and contrastively so. The dichotomy of real versus illustrational has one status in his statements, another in his work, for it is in fact the distorted, ambiguous forms — usually the figures — which are the more vital and urgent forms, the more ‘real.’ As with the way Bacon paints background very differently from foreground, so in this respect his work presents a duality of different kinds or degrees of realism. There are the moments of radical distortion and painterly spasm, but these are offset by surrounding passages of blandness, in which the mode of depiction is as deadpan as the paint-handling. Everyday objects — furniture, baseboards, mirrors, rolller blinds, fight bulbs, door knobs, etc. — are often achieved with the studied simplicity of a commercial artist, of a cartoonist or (dare one say it) an illustrator. This makes all the more forceful the explosions of flesh, the deformative smudges, or the onanistic ejaculations of paint which are allowed to intrude upon and puncture this otherwise innocuous surface. Opposite in execution as in appearance, these heightened moments stand apart from the calculated banality of what surrounds them — the real as in the actual substance of paint is pitted against 'realism' as in pictorial representation.”

David Cohen, The Dualist — Francis BaconArt in America, 1st January, 1997




“Of course one does put in such things as ears and eyes. But then one would like to put them in as irrationally as possible. And the only reason for this irrationality is that, if it does come about, it brings the force of the image over very much more strongly than if one just sat down and illustrated the appearance, which of course millions of art students all over the world can do.”

“I think that the mystery of fact is conveyed by an image being made out of non-rational marks. And you can’t will this non-rationality of a mark. That is the reason that accident always has to enter into this activity, because the moment you know what to do, you’re making just another form of illustration.”

“Well, now, what personally I would like to do would be, for instance, to make portraits which were portraits but came out of things which really had nothing to do with what is called illustrational facts of the image; they would be made differently, and yet they would give the appearance. To me, the mystery of painting today is how can appearance be made. I know it can be illustrated, I know it can be photographed. But how can this thing be made so that you catch the mystery of appearance within the mystery of the making?”

“What has never yet been analysed is why this particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration. I suppose because it has a life completely of its own. It lives on its own, like the image one’s trying to trap; it lives on its own, and therefore transfers the essence of the image more poignantly. So that the artist may be able to open up or rather, should I say, unlock the valves of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life more violently.”

“Well, illustration surely means just illustrating the image before you, not inventing it. I dont know if I can say any more about it than what you know. I can quite easily sit down and make what is called a literal portrait of you. So what I’m disrupting all the time is this literalness, because I find it uninteresting.”

“And in my case, I feel that anything Ive ever liked at all has been the result of an accident on which I have been able to work. Because it has given me a disoriented vision of a fact I was attempting to trap. And I could then begin to elaborate, and try and make something out of a thing which was non-illustrational.”

“Ive often found that, if I have tried to follow the image more exactly, in the sense of its being more illustrational, and it has become extremely banal, and then out of sheer exasperation and hopelessness Ive completely destroyed it by not knowing at all the marks I was making within the image — suddenly I have found that the thing comes nearer to the way that my visual instincts feel about the image I was trying to trap.”

“After all, man wants invention, he doesnt want to go on and on and on just reproducing the past. You want something new. Not an illustrative realism but a realism that comes about through a real invention of a new way to lock reality into something completely arbitrary.”

“I believe that realism has to be re-invented. It has to be continuously re-invented. I believe that reality in art is something profoundly artificial and that it has to be recreated. Otherwise it will be just an illustration of something — which will be very second-hand.”

“Well, I think that the difference is that an illustrational form tells you through the intelligence immediately what the form is about, whereas a non-illustrative form works first upon sensation and then slowly leaks back into the fact. Now why this should be, we dont know.”

I dont think its abstract. I think Michaux is a very, very intelligent and conscious man, who is aware of exactly the situation that he is in. And I think that he has made the best tachiste or free marks that have been made. I think he is much better in that way, in making free marks, than Jackson Pollock. What gives me the feeling is that it is more factual: it suggests more. Because after all, this painting, and most of his paintings, have always been about delayed ways of remaking the human image, through a mark which is totally outside an illustrational mark but yet always conveys you back to the human image  a human image generally dragging and trudging through deep ploughed fields, or something like that. They are about these images moving and falling and so on. 

Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, 1962—1979






                                                                                                                                                                                 Francis Bacon, Two Figures on a Couch, 1967





Thick Paint as Thick Time  


The dense thick texture of Time echoes the dense thick texture of Paint. Since Time has a specific texture just as Paint has a specific texture. Velázquez paints Time, Vermeer paints Time, Rembrandt paints Time, Turner paints Time, Bacon paints Time: yet all paint time in their own time for their time being of painting time. Whilst Freud and Auerbach paint turdistical congested claustrophobic Time where Time is turned to Turd where Time is: Shit. So in-time, time-will-do-the-dirt on Freud and Auerbach for ther doin-dirt-traytime paintings taking too much time over painting because great painting does not take-time but gives-time; just looking at Rembrandt one can witness the wetness in the quickness of the brush-strokes which are painted-in-time, and, on-time, all-the-time whilst being-out-of-time-all-the-time-not-in-time-being-out-of-time-all-the-time-in-time.

Bacon deliberately evades and avoids Time in Paintings unlike Rembrandt who Paints Time painting-time-all-the-time and nothing but time-all-the-time and nothing but the being of time as the time of being as the sign of aging of the body aging but without being-in-itself ever aging because our ontology of time necessarily never ages unlike our biology of time as the body of time aging all the time, but Bacon never ever ages in time in his Self-Portraits for their are no Signs of Aging in the Self-Portraits of Bacon whilst there are always Signs of Aging in Rembrandt Self Portraits even if there are no Signs of Being aging in Rembrandt Self Portraits because Being does not Age in Time. Unlike Rembrandt the realist, Bacon the fantasist could not cope with hard time with doing time on his face, doing his face in, and so Bacon painted himself at the ages between seven and seventeen.

There is no death-at-work in the Self-Portraits of Bacon whilst there is death-at-work in Rembrandt Self-Portraits yet this death-at-work only works on the body and not on the being of Rembrandt whilst the being of Bacon is not longer there after 1970 even-if there-is of-spirit still-there since spirit and being are not of the same ontological order since spirit can still be-there even if a being is not there and Bacon became spirit as a ghost of being not being there even when Bacon was still there in body up to almost the end for they all say that Bacon was not there anymore after 1990 where being and spirit deserted his dasein with Bacon becoming a representation of an apparition. Late in life Bacon paints self-portraits not as an aging man but as ageless woman with no signs of aging, no lines of aging no lines of aging, unlike Rembrandt whose aging face is lined with time all the time being done in by time. When one met Bacon in the flesh there was this uncanny sensation of timelessness where one could not possibly age Bacon ontically, or ever age Bacon ontologically’, which is so extremely rare.




Obeying the Ontology of Time Order


Contrary to the current misconceptions of Baconian tropes and clichés there is no sense of mortality, no sensation of mortality, in the paint or in the painting of Bacon no sense of dasein-decay but rather a a sense and a sensation of living-life-to-the-full or living-life-to-the-empty as the coming-off-of-being-there as a jubilant-jouissance lust-for-life free-from-suffering and so thus decay and death are not present are not at there in the paint and painting of Bacon and the paint and the painting of Bacon are always already the all-fresh of the right-now and not the over-time for all-the-time-in-the-world is concentrated into the now-sensation of the no-time-at-all painted outside of time and within this outside of time is actual authentic ontological time as the sensation of time at a time, at a particular time, at a peculiar time, when being came into a time of its being at the same time as being jettisoned from time. all the time for all time, being both its own time for all time and no time for no time at all; thus Rembrandt and Bacon paint the sensations of ontological-time distinct from their ontic-time that they resisted all-the-no-time. Meeting Bacon there is this sensation of not-being-in-time, as if Bacon had kidnapped you, had hijacked you, away from being-in-time, as time being with Bacon was being-without-time.

Rembrandt understood the ontology of time and the biology of time where the biology of time is ageing whilst the ontology of time is ageless never aging as the being of time does not age whilst the biology of time is an aging of the body of being but Bacon does not know the biology of time in painting since the self-portraits of Bacon are of his ontological time as time without dasein or dasein without time and for Bacon time is not passing but takes its time being in stasis being a throw of time torn from time as a stain of shot semen forever there-being shinning-there shimmering-there glittering-there gleaming-there being-there as the forever-now there that knows no time of being. Rembrandt grew younger with age such is the ontology of time eclipsing and negating the biology of time all-the-time out of time; likewise, Bacon, ontologically, grew younger with age in his late self-portraits and in his lives. For Rembrandt being passes time like for Bacon being passes time; that is; for Rembrandt and for Bacon both stay as a certain time: all-the-being within-a-time being that time for all time as that time of being a sensation of a time. Time waits for certain beings, for time waits for women (even if time waits for no man). Time waits on certain beings to come to time, to do their time, out of time (which is rather rare).







                                                                                                                                                             Self-Portrait with Dishevelled Hair, 1628, Rembrandt van Rijn 






Paint as Spirit


Paint painted Ontologically outside of Illustration is the Materiality of Spirit as Spirit materialised made Real as what Spirit looks like as the Flesh of Spirit for Flesh is Spirit and not Meat and yet Some still confuse the two taking the flesh to be of the same similar economy of meat as being made up of the same sort of stuff but flesh is not meat so when Bacon paints a portrait ontologically Bacon paints the Flesh of the Spirit as painted Sprit as: spirit paint and here Bacon is uncannily akin to Jawlensky and today this still remains a secret as Bacon and Jawlensky are seen as being poles apart; yet both painted the Flesh of Spirit through presencing the being-there of the paint-spirit’: Bacon’s serene Three Studies for a Portrait (1976) and yet another Three Studies for a Portrait (1976), illuminatingly have exactly the same serene-spirit sensationing’ as Jawlensky’s Meditations of 1936.

That dragged-swiped paint in the left panel of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait (1967) has an immediate effect on our body in our being before thinking before thought can be formed to form a thought about it as a reading of it and once read once thought we are then left with no reading of it no thought of it since this paint is painted primordially before that advent of thought whilst remaining fresh and alive existing always already way after the last thought; the paint is horribly old yet seductively new as we know it has only just been painted whilst knowing it has been painted before the human being even existed since such ab-paint is the after-birth of the before birth of being human. Painting is our writing before writing and our writing after writing that is read as the instead of what is written with words which cannot write with the writing of painting without meaning for wording needs meaning but painting does not need meaning even if aesthetically-castrated art-critics need meaning: our needing meaning is our fearing painting, is our fearing sensationing. Necessarily then: reading about painting is not an understanding of painting: when looking at paintings our understanding comes from sensationing about them, and not thinking about them; but art critics are always attempting at thinking, not senstaioning.

Painting is understandably the ending of writing for painting begins where writing ends and writing begins where painting ends which is why there can never be such a thing as Art Writing which is an odious oxymoron for painting is alien to writing and writing is so alien to painting so thus you cannot write about painting or drawing or sculpting because they are primordial languages which cannot be translated into writing which is far too intellectual and far too meaningful to be able to grasp arting which is necessarily meaningless and non-intellectual and necessarily anti-intellectual; but of course art careerists’ who do so-called Art Writing (political propaganda) will necessarily protest-protesting and write inane-inanities analling’ all about art’, as: arting’ is not writing’, as: arting’ is not thinking’: arting’ is arthering’: (which is also ather’ to the other’ of othering’).

Look at the sleeve in Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels (1659) by Rembrandt and you will see it repeating itself in the same swish of white-whipped paint as in the Last painting by Bacon of George Dyer (1972) where we witness that same fresh whipped whiteness of swipe spirit and this Rembrandt and this Bacon thus then defy the inane idiocy of an Art History for what they present is pure spirit right now as having been painted planted there just right now in this split-second as both these swipes of spirit have just been presented and are always just being-presented just happened still smelling fresh still sounding fresh and it is this freshness of paint that is the living being of paint, oil paint being the semen of being freshly-shot, eternally wet. Auerbach, Freud, Kossoff, Vaughan could never get that eternal wetness which we feel in Hals, Fragonard, Constable, Turner, Sargent, Marquet.






                                                                                                                              White whipped sleeve swipe spirit in Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels (1659) by Rembrandt






                                                                                                                                  Detail from Triptych August 1972: The very last actual-real painting by Francis Bacon





Sabulous Sein: The Grain in The Paint


Bacon began as a brave-bezonian, as a raw-rascal, ripe-recruit, fermented freshly from painting-without-training not knowing how to do it letting the paint do it on his behalf as sabulous paint in its gritty groininess. Bacon paints fabulously sabulously from around-about 1949 to around-about 1969 and then sadly stops painting with ontological paint so ending up abandoning painting and doing that very sinful thing Bacon despised most of all: illustrating’ where the paint loses its being its very ability to be as paint-being-in-itself-for-itself and thus Bacon died as a painter just after Dyer died ending with that sparkling spunked-spirit swipe in the last painting: Triptych August 1972. Bacon scholars need to take their time in deciphering which was the Last Painting that Francis Bacon ever painted; and by: painting we define it exactly how the artist himself had defined it.

For Bacon the grain in the paint paints the pain in the paint. The wrong side’ of the canvas has a roughness which initiates-induces this rugged raw graininess when the brush brushes against it. Grainy grit is also antithetical yet complementary to the smooth-surface of the painted ground like a bed of soft strings whilst the grain in the paint is the percussion. The grain in the paint becomes the timpani role; and this is not an analogy or metaphor for music is not a metaphor for paint and paint is not a metaphor for music but rather Bacon’s paint is music to the ears as paint to the ears as paint to the ears: You primarily hear Bacon’s paint before you see Bacon’s paint; and when you simply assume you see Bacon’s paint you actually do not because there is nothing to see in the sense of commonsense seeing but rather you hear the sight as the site of paint heard hearing you hearing it for Bacon’s paint hears you smelling the sight of the seen heard which is why Bacon’s paint is necessarily non-visual (non-empirical) because the grainy-grit in the paint castrates the vision of seeing the site which Bacon’s paint blinds you from seeing: sight; so the sound of fingernails scraping extremely slowly across a blackboard is the high-pitched grainy-sound non-illustrational paint makes upon: the ear of the nervous system.






                                                                                                                                                                                    Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait, 1968





  Dead Paint of Living Painters and the Living Paint of Dead Painters


Why cannot painters today paint in such a fresh way where the paint sounds-spirit and lives on its own as a life of its own as a life-force all of its own for even the faked freshness of Jenny Saville always comes across as being over rehearsed dead-paint just as Freud comes-off as dead-paint there as a being-dead painter always already dead for when the paint is ontologically dead to begin with then one begins to then question if Freud actually ever lived as paint is, after all the extra-empirical evidence for the existence of the painter; for only if the painter is in fact ontologically alive will the paint ever be-alive; for da-sein is not always there in painting, not always there in sculpture: the actor, akin to the work of art, defines who has Dasein: The Golden Age of Hollywood was rife with actors who had Dasein, unlike today where actors with Dasein is extremely rare.

If we look at the portraits of Jenny Saville we will witness dry dasein with no wetness no moistness no sweatness no cuntness no cockness no noseness no mouthness no earness no eyeness no tearness no bloodness no spunkness since the paint has no being since the paint is not the stuff of sweating out and spunking off as the liquid-light of coming-off of being of being-here for we are witnessing no wetnessing of a drenched-dasein in these portraits which are illustrational in that the paint is in fact illustrational paint albeit it done is a mock-messy sort of a way to give a sensation of spontaneity yet there is absolutely nothing spontaneous in the portraits of Saville which are sort of updates on Freud but still very 19th century like Freud and one wonders why Saville, or Freud, have not learnt from Bacon, or Picasso, or Van Gogh. Saville is so scared of the stuff of paint, the smell of paint, the sight of paint, the sound of paint, the shit of paint, the spunk of paint, the piss of paint, the puss of paint; and so safely remaining dry’ at the non-painted, dry-level of conscious-illustration with no leaking and no bleeding allowed: it is faux-leaking, faux-bleeding in Saville: and why are the photoshop’ eyes always: ‘stencilled-in’ (illustratively0? So hasn’t salvarsan Saville ever seen Bacon’s Study for Head of Lucian Freud, 1967?

There is no grain in Saville’s daseinless paint; Saville cannot get wet’; Saville cannot let leak’; Saville wraps paint in hermetically sealed cellophane free from contamination and corruption, free from abjection and ejaculation; Saville cannot make the paint cum, Saville cannot cunt the paint; Saville cannot let the paint leak; so Saville cannot cum-to-paint to let the paint cum into being as being paint-for-itself: that is let the paint be as it wants to be as paint-in-itself-for-itself as the real-there being-paint being-real. Saville is pre-Degas in that the eyes, nose, mouth, ears are far too literal (drawn in’, illustrated’) where the pseudo faux-paint pretends to be painted with all of its phoney-chancy rehearsed spontaneity; and because the pristine paint in Saville comes across as cut-and-paste photoshop it therefore reproduces so extremely well in glossy-shinny Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction catalogues, whereas, paradoxically, Bacon does not at all reproduce well in reproductions because Bacons primordial-ontology of ab-paint resists and refuses being reproduced and appears absent; also the small size of colour reproductions negate’ that: dasein of oil paint’. Yet: interestingly, or rather, boringly, Bacons late paintings’, which, of course, were not painted’, per se, as such, reproduce extremely well indeed.

Indeed it is quite literally absolutely impossible to reproduce in reproductions ontological painters such as Titian, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Turner, Constable, Sickert, Van Gogh, Nolde, Soutine, Auerbach and Bacon. The passive violence of photographic-reproduction sterilizes and homogenizes the raw and rugged, grit and grain, of the dense-dissonance of the painted-surfaces and so deontologizing the paint, killing the paint. Bacon can only be viewed in the flesh. Whilst Warhol and Saville, being non-ontological image-makers, are ideally suited for glossy catalogue reproductions by actually looking far better in reproduction than in reality because they cannot and do not exist in reality. Not surprisingly then, all Contemporary Art’ always comes across as being far superior in reproduction in Christie’s and Sotheby’s glossy highly polished catalogues than on the walls of the auction houses where it always looks dull, null and void. We really need an Elizabeth David recipe cookbook on Bacons Paint with juicy-culinary ‘close-ups’ in detail of the paint-in-itself’, but bizarrely this has still not been done.






                                                                                                                                                                                          Francis Bacon, Head of a Boy, 1960