Francis Bacon’s Paint



                                                                                                                                                                             Francis Bacon, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966






"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




"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 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




"I really do like paint to be very fresh...I like, you may say, the glitter and colour that comes from the mouth, and I've 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




"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. It's 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




"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 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




"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 Wood; At the Tate, a second celebration of Francis Bacon, Time 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




"Let's make clear, as it were, who's on the couch and who's behind the couch in one's 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, it's almost true that a real analyst can't 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, it's 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."

Gowing, Lawrence, 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. 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."

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 doesn't make them."

Orson Welles, Filming Othello, 1978 




"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




"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. 




"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 unauthoriitative, almost banal figures."

Donald Kuspit, Hysterical PaintingArt Forum, January, 1986




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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




"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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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, Bacon's work was becoming glib, trite, and colour-coordinated to a decorous degree. From boasting that he couldn't 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 Met's 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 artist's 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. It's not just empty - I don't even have a good reason to be here. Only I end up looking at this work and I don't know what's happening and because I don't know what's happening I've 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 don't 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, Sunday November 7, 1971




"Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Velasquez. During the next two weeks he painted seven further Popes. Some of their faces resemble that of the Velasquez 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




"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 individual's 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 Bacon's 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 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. 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




"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 can't 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 marvelous 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 Bacon's figures inspire such horror. Although there has been much writing on Bacon's figures, there has been no other direct connection with Kristeva's 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




"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 Bacon's paintings as the work of some kind f 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's imagery. Of course Bacon is a painter of obsessional images, but then in the private terms of every artist's 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 psychiatrist's 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




"The late Peter Fuller had little sympathy with Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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, 'Bacon's 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 Velasquez 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 life's 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 Flaubert's 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




"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




"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. 5 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




"Bacon is not a man who has ever retreated into the safety of a fixed style or fashionable ism and he cannot be grouped with any of his contemporaries. 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 al 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




"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 Velasquez 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. '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 didn't 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 don't think it matters even if one goes on being influenced - some of the greatest paintings, like Cimabue's 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 wasn't 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




"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




"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. To understand the force of  Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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: Bacon's throwing down of 'non-rational marks', those which convey the 'mystery of fact', not the mysteries. An expropriation. 'And you can't 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 Bacon's non-rational marks, the moment of the circuiting, that Bataille's 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 Bacon's painting: the act that is sovereign in Bataille's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's fugitive body incarcerates it, dissimulates it; perhaps Bataille's experience (non-knowledge) or Michaux's connaissance par les gouffres is the nearest one can come. At any rate, to adapt Artaud's 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 artist's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's last works, no sense of wisdom—visual or existential—distilled from all the year of labor. 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. That's the way an artist signals he's 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




"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




"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 Bacon's ridged and  speckled, stippled effects. The results, achieved through using cashmere and cotton, can can be read as reminiscent of the skin's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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. Bacon's 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 it's 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 one's 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 Goethe's terms and in Nietzsche's  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 they're doing it; they must forget why they're 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: it's not about being focused on something - far from it because in some sense it's objectless - it's 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 we're so used to giving those descriptions in terms of their objects."  

Mark Cousins, Radical Forgetting, Architectural Association, London: 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 don't know whether it's going to make the image that you want to record or whether it will; whether this fact that you're trying to record can only be made out of accident because once you know how to make it  - or what you're 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; it's 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, it's 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 it's 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 mind's 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 painter's need to trap the visual aspects of personality by memorising it. He does not paint from life. He was teaching himself oil paint's 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 Poe's horrifying tale, on the edge of instant putrefaction. Facial features are blurred in Bacon's 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. Bacon's surgeon's 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 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 Bacon's mind  when he discusses paint's 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 Pollock's 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 Pollock's 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 Bacon's 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





"SPEAKING ABOUT that wide-open mouth which is one of his trademarks and since antiquity has served as the mask of horror, Francis Bacon says: "I wanted to make the inside of the mouth as beautiful as a Claude Monet." From mouth to Monet might stand as a summary of the twenty-seven-year trajectory illustrated by the 110 pictures now at the Grand Palais. There can be little doubt that Bacon wished the exhibition to be read this way. Retrospectives in an artist's lifetime are usually self-interpretations; the emphasis on recent work underscores Bacon's current concerns. And this concern explains his eagerness to be seen in Paris, the city where Bacon's central problem was posed for the first time a little over a century ago: the fatal rift between paint and reality. The indissoluble association of  destruction and construction which makes these pictures masterpieces is due to "a chance conjunction between actual living and art," as Bacon says.

In the Forties, chance fell his way practically all the time. Had one not known about the previous decade of experiment, of which practically no testimony remains, one might ascribe Bacon's early achievement to beginner's luck. Or again to (if the word may be used in such a connection) paradise not yet lost. Paradise, for the modern painter, is not knowing that there is no paradise: that paint and reality are incompatible. This awareness differentiates Manet from Courbet, and Bacon's work of the Forties from that of the following years. For now the incompatibility will out. The canvases of the Fifties are marked by the dropping away (as of some Atlantis) of the middle ground on which painting has built since the Renaissance: the postulate that pictorial signs can signify reality. They display a painful divorce between literal image and the subtle curtain of paint. Velazquez's Pope and Eisenstein's nurse have in common that they are taken over wholly; paint does not change, but veils them. But now an unbridgeable gap has opened between subject and paint. The most important thing about pictures like "Man Kneeling in Grass" (1952) are the intrusion of this unspeakable void and Bacon's desperate attempt to qualify it.

Asked why he put a hypodermic needle into one of his figures, Bacon replied (and the answer sheds light on one of his favourite themes, the Crucifixion): "It was to nail the painting to reality." Of course, aggressivity is a useful prerequisite for any would-be realist, but the violence in question here no longer belongs to the artist and to the subject represented: it is the violence of representation. Modern paint is the ghoul, not Bacon.  This, however, is because the essential—"the conjunction between actual living and art"—is more than ever left to it. Despite all precautions, reality slips through paint's fingers; it must be grappled with, pinned down again and again. 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 brushstrokes. Thus painting can be said, in Bacon's words, "to be and not to be."

The network of relations spun by Mr Russell is so dense that the reader is sometimes inclined to forget the disruption which is the very sign of any original oeuvre, especially in a case like Bacon's. But perhaps it is the critic's task to tie the Gordian Knots so that the artist may cut them. More dangerous would have been the temptation to dissolve the work into its contexts; but Mr Russell is immunised against that by his unfaltering attention to what goes on in the studio (and one understands why the painter lets him in). He has written, about being and not being in painting, some pages which are as crucial as they are rare in writing on art. For they deal with art's most constantly suppressed truth: paint and reality cannot mix. This is the real predicament, and it is so unbearable that only a few artists—and only within the Western tradition—have built on it. From certain Fayum portraits, through a lace-collar by Velazquez and a beach by Constable, to an asparagus by Manet, they constitute, it seems to me, Bacon's real lineage. Others have seen the rift and opted for one side or the other: abstract paint or literal reality.  What makes Bacon frightening is not his subject-matter but the fact that, in his practice, he shows art and actual living to be "unmixable and inseparable." The Council of Chalcedon, in AD 458, thus defined the nature of Christ: I can think of no more apt definition for Bacon's painting.

Indeed, his fascination with the Crucifixion may well be attributed to the fact that Christianity's central mystery provides the pattern for the mystery of painting: reality must allow itself to be put to death by paint in order to be resurrected as image. 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, within each picture. Or rather, in that small section of the picture where the identification is attempted. The rest is frozen in expectancy, waiting for the "chance conjunction" to occur. Tertullian called this period (those glacial three days before the Resurrection),"refrigerium interim."  No artist has given us a grander vision of this ghastly moment of suspension, which is the Christian legacy  to our post- Christian age. The great areas of colour, stilled by nocturnal brilliance, should clash, but do not. They are petrified while the dice are rolling."

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




                                                                            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 Paint thus cannot be understood logically or 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, 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 for which Lacanians and Zizekians and Derrideans cannot come (off) to attain.

Bacon does not ‘represent’ being but presents being: the pulsating primordial paint is prior to representation having nothing to represent. Bacon’s 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 banal descriptive literal (narrative) interpretations that are as absurd as they are meaningless and often their ‘criticism’ unwittingly reveals their own judgemental conservative homophobic moralism.


Paints Being

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.

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.’

With Freud and Auerbach, Kossoff and Uglow, the paint does not live let alone live ‘on its own’ because the paint is non-ontological because the paint is suffocated and served far to dry and this daseinless dryness is thus-then lacking in the livingness-daseiness of the shimmering-shining wetness of the glistening-gleaming freshness that-thus is so essential for the paint to come into being as we smell and see, taste and touch, in Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez, Fragonard, Constable, Turner, Sargent, and Bacon: all these real painters, as the painters of The Real, all had ‘The Shinning’, and only those that can come to shine can come to The Real. Do you have ‘The Shine’?


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 '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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's Dasein and where Bacon was able paint with paint being paint for itself as it self 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 today, for the painter today.

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 a 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 Lucien Freud (1967), Two Figures on a Couch (1967), What distinguishes the Dasein of Bacon's paintings of the 1960s is appearances of the 'animal condition' and the 'alien condition' where there is no 'human condition'. Bacon's particular Style emerged in 1963 producing th finest works of his chequered career for Bacon was to stop painting entirely by 1980s where the paint has dried up and died up and completely lost its Dasein even if Bacon has not quite lost his yet though 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 that is.

Bacon’s art-brut ab-paint releases the primal-shudder of the abject-sublime. The primordial-paint activates a shudder-sensation dreaded-directly to the nervous system bypassing the intellect. The abjected-paint 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 the intellectual cannot grasp this abthing that is 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 as a furtive foul-play 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 the 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 the abpaint with the empirical-eye but rather with the extra-empirical eye 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 abjecte and the abjected and thus the abpaint  as the abjected abject touches us and moves us musically, muscularly; Bacon’s abpaint is 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 and fucking are of that exacting economy of our abecting-ahead of ourselves outside of ourselves outside of our bodies becoming an abeing-abimage as a primordial-presentation of our-originary dread-dasein: in the beginning we were paint..

The primal-shudder of the abimaged-paint 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 and 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 being wise. 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 our primordial ‘animal condition (not the post-modern myth of the human condition).


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. Bacon's paint does not represent reality rather Bacon's paint presents reality: is real: is the real as paint-being-n-itself-for-itself for the paint 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 paint knows of no time just as art 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 and before the now to go.

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 paint 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-there, as the music of-as music of muscle: we hear the paint with the body and the paint touches us musically, muscularly. The paint assimilates itself with the primal-memory of the wounded-body.

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 that nominate themselves as painters do not in actual fact paint per se as such for the economy of representation is necessarily the negation of the paint as painting-for-itself as itself-is where the representations are the ruination of the being of the paint as it is 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 which is the human for what is illustrated is the always human that human that says I am only human that which in fact doe not exit which is why your insipid and insidious 'interpellation' into literal-likeness is a literal-lie if you like. 

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 'art writing'.





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




Paint is Mood. Paint is moody. Paint has moods. Bacon could be in a bad mood beofre 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. Bacon's mood's of painting are those Heideggerian moods from boredom to anxiety and 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 for 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 and radical anxiety initiate-instigate Bacon to take risks to throw chance to do anything other than the illustrational which is necessarily conservative and 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 for in profound boredom and radical anxiety we are  a non-conscious jettisoned-jouissance thrown-forth abjected-ahead of da-sein arriving at the Real for Itself.

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 the 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-cite 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 landing 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-paint thrown-there is an actual-real revelation of the Real that is the abject-sublime which representation can never come to reveal-there.






                                                                                                                                                                Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking, 1966




It is not possible to make 'preparatory drawings' for the accident-chance enhanced 'non-illustrational' way Bacon handled oil-paint: stabbing, smearing, brushing, throwing; there simply would be no logic in making drawings as preparations or rehearsals for Bacon's unprepared and 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 has 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 'throwness'.

Bacon's paint is pleasure. Bacon's paint is in pleasure. Bacon's paint as pleasure. As a pure pleasure. But a pleasure that has both an ontic-identification and a psychic-identification with us that 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. Bacon's paint comes-off as pure-pleasure as being-in-pleasure as paint for paint's sake as pleasure for pleasure's sake for the pleasure of the paint for the the paint of the pleasure. Bacon's paint is a pleasure. As an attaining and as an attuning to absolute-jouissannce where the image of pleasure is attained and attuned in the paint as pure pleasure as pure being as the Real attained to in the pleasure of paint as an 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 pleasure of the paint as an attained-attuned absolute-jouissance which is the Real-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself as pure-presentation of pleasure-paint. Bacon presents. Bacon represents nothing. Which is why we cannot write about the paintings of Francis Bacon and when we do naively attempt to write about the paintings of Francis Bacon we end up writing nothing at all and this nothing at all is known as that oxymoron of 'art criticism' or even more absurdly now known as 'art writing' (another oxymoron if ever there was one).






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





Fragonard's paint is pleasure. Fragonard's 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 linterpellated in the 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 because that are ontologically poles apart and antithetical to one another. Yet Bacon gets coupled (con)fused with Giacometti like Bacon gets coupled (con)fused with Becket due to some sort of supposed-assumed 'existential' entwinement.

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. Bacon's paint works most when it is fresh most and moist most; Freud's 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. Saville's Paint, Freud's Paint, Kossoff's Paint, Auerbach's Paint tastes far too dry to come into Being and so 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 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 sponteniety 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 poignant Pang).






                                                                                                      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 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 the 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 otherness of the paint as a sort of primordial mirror-image of itself before the becoming of our identifying  as being-human for Bacon's paint is our being before the human which is why there is no such thing as 'the human condition' (whatever that maybe) in Bacon's paint which is utterly other than being human. The I of the human cannot identify with the eye of the alien condition of paint and thus for Bacon there is no 'human condition' and so necessary the human art critic can see the alien abimagery of Bacon always assuming that-they and them-that are human.

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 (which 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 come to being.

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 imagery; in point of fact, the actual works of Bacon, in themselves desiccate the classical, pictorial image of ‘the human’ and deracinate us from the daily foibles of existence.






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





Paint is Sound. What does Bacon's paint sound like? Bacon's paint sounds like no other painter's paint. Bacon's 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; pointed shrill woodwinds; a full symphony orchestra sounding Wagnerian and Mahlerian, sounding Brucknerian and Sraussian, 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.

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 the  unity of the revelation of being-mage as being-paint    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 1960 - such as the Man in Blue series - that have this unification of image-paint as paint-image but Bacon's utterly unique Style is still not quite there.

Bacon's Style emerges in 1963 and it is materially manifest in Study for Portrait of P.L. from photographs (1963) which is arguable one of  the greatest of all Bacon's paintings where the paint speaks in profoundly primordial sounds and is incredibly 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 for Bacon was a profoundly musical painter as a composer of paint sound-scapes 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 Velasquez (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 so we hear these paintings as well as see them. In 1963 Bacon was at his best.

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 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 for itself for they work on it to death by negating the paint altogether where there is no immediacy of the paint but rather a mannered turgid ploughing of the paint of a sexual assault on the paint as a sort of molestation of the paint as a mindless masturbatory-manipulation.






                                                                                                                                                                         Figure with Two Owls, Study after Velasquez (1963)





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 and Hockney where the paint has no life of its own because it cannot come to live on its own because the paint has not come into being in the first place despite pertaining and pretending to-be da-sein there is no paint-being-there so therefore there is no being-there of the paint-there and we tragically witness that paint-not-being-there in Bacon's late nonpainted paintings where there is no paint-being-there anymore simply because there is no Bacon being-there anymore for Bacon actually died in 1972.

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 Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff where the paint is a murky mannered muddiness unable to breath unable to pulsate for the paint has no pulse to be.

To paint is the was of the always already been painted had been done had been painted always already yet already always fresh as just having been painted-there and then just now 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 always already where the origin of painting 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 done just done now done to come just come into being-paint just coming into painting-being the painting of the coming of being-painted being-paint-there.

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 indeed both Bacon and Jawlensky were the last painters of spirit and we live is a spiritless age which is why we do not recognise Spirit in Bacon and Jawlensky whom were primarily painters of spirit.

For Bacon paint 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 paint or the mind of the clay and Bacon lets the paint mind itself as having a mind of its own for the paint of Bacon is minding its business.

The paint of Bacon is non-representational paint as it has nothing to represent only being to present as pure-paint presents pure-being for 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 for not all paint is there for not all being is there because it is dreadfully difficult for paint-to-come-into-being just as it is dreadfully difficult for beings-to-come-into-being as there is hardly any painting-being-there today for there is hardly any being-being-there today.

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 for 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 very few painters who paint paintings in fact most painters have an actual dread of the paint that is of paint-coming-into-being.

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 for all Bacon can hope to offer us is a glimpse of being-there and that then is the glint and gleam of being painted here.






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





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 it 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 the paint presents - not represents - the 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 which are unreal for 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.

Bacon's shot-shat split-spilt spat-spunked pus-puked primordial-portraits are the Deleuzeian Rhizome:  "A rhizome is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning or end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. It constitutes linear linear multiplicities with n directions having neither subject  nor object, which can be laid out on a plane of consistency, and from which the One is always subtracted. When a multiplicity of this kind changes dimension, it necessarily changes its nature as well, undergoes a metamorphosis." (Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux: Capitalisme et schizophréne, Paris 1980).  Bacon's frothed fractured fragmented heinous hideous heads neither begin nor end but erupt ejaculating froth foam from the centre spilling out towards you 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 fragmentation bled by 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..."  (Maurice Blanchot, L'écriture du désastre. Paris Gallimard, 1980). 






                                                                                                                                                                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 to - who 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 itself - harmony in contrarity, as in the case of the bow or the lyre." To tear apart is always to bring together.

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 transitory - to life - by wanting to save it from death, the works kills it."  (Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, The Athlone Press, 1997).  

But by brutally tearing the torso to tatters pulling-it-to-pieces-to-pulp-to-pap through 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 flesh is the flash of being spirit-there.






                                                                                                                                              Facial-Frisson-Semen-Sensation: Jettisoned-Jouissance of Dread-Dasein





Paint is always the there just as being is always the there for where there is paint there is being for 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 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 and so different being-free from the claustrophobic-clutter frequently found in kak Kossoff Auerback, Freud whom gravel-the-ground.  

The Paint of Bacon akin to the Paint of Rembrandt and the Paint of Van Gogh cannot be reproduced in colour reproductions which renders books on Bacon and Rembrandt and Van Gogh null and void since they always come across as flat and dull 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.

The fleshness of the paint comes forth from the thrown freshness of the paint thrown forth afresh through the thrownness of the paint which is the frisson freshness of the pulsating paint for flesh is fresh for flesh is what is always fresh so the paint must be thrown fresh where the throwing-forth is a form of freshness yet not anyone can throw freshly just as not anyone can paint freshly as if the paint were always eternal 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 now in an instant infinitely forever thrown forth into infinity infinitely-thrown eternally-fresh molten-lava leaking-life burning bright-being-there thrown-there forever-fresh flesh-paint.

Through Baconian and Bakhtinian parole brute - the lived language of leaked paint and word - Bacon 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 away from the noise of narrative to the nailed nervous system where force negates form where form becomes froth foam forth with out 'illustration' without 'words' negating narrative. Blanchot terms the fragmentary as: "Language's rupture with itself."  For Bacon, 'Paint's rupture with itself' is initiated in painting portraits where the paint abjects itself out of itself 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 actually as freeze-framed frothed-formed flawed-facets. In Bacon's primordial portraits of our wondrous wounds, the abject-sublime is the angoisse antagonistic dialectic duelled between the dying 'human subject' and the borning 'alien object': Bacon's 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 sliver silver sperm sensation ooze outer orbit put of joint jettisoning jouissance.  


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 the image 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 image 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-there 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 other painters. 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 for paint is ontological; not at all surprisingly then that 'synthetic' acrylic paint has no dasein: acrylic paint does not live like oil paint.

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 this 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 after Pollock, Rothko, Natkin, Hofmann, Reinhardt, Newman, 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 abreact. 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 noticeable 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. Yet there is nothing Abstract or Expressionist in Bacon's abimagery which is always primarily paint-in-itself-for-itself which is thus not abstracted and which thus is not expressed: it simply is as an abimage. Sylvester was completely blinded to the 'fully matured' vintage works of prime cut Bacon painted between 1963 and 1967. Rothko had dasein because Rothko is not an abstract-painter per-se as-such as Rothko paints emanations, vibrations and sensations of dasein or what was once nominated as spirit: Rothko presents the materiality of spirit of spirit made flesh.


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: the nothing there of abstract death.

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' being there is the 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 abstraction: not necessarily face-to-face with nothing but no-face-to-no-face as abstractions: as-those-not-there.






                                                                                                                                                                    Study of Portrait of P. L. from photographs (1963)





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 (1956-57), Study for Portrait of Van Gogh IV (1957), Head of Boy (1960), Study of a Child (1960), Head - Man 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), Portrait - Peter 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), Study 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, 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 1980s.  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.”

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 (1978), Study for Self-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 Figure - Back View (1982), Figure with Cricket Pad (1982), Study from the Human Body - Figure 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 Floor - Painting (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 March 1991 (1991), Study of a Bull (1991). 






                                                                                                                                                          Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1964







                                                                                                                                                                               Honoré Fragonard, La Gimblette, 1776





Abstract Figureism & Abstract Landscapism

Abstract Figureism is initiated in Brancusi, Modigliani, Picasso, Jawlensky 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 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-there. 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 arguably one of the finest painters of Abstract Figureism today far finer than the pastiche plagiarism of Glenn Brown who illustrated paint through a vigorous virtuosity. Pang nominates himself as an 'abstract painter' (whatever that means) yet never falls fully into inane and abysmal abstraction as such. 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 clean and Saville's computer-generated photoshop-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 Saville illustrates flesh; Saville does not paint flesh.

So where is the 'oil' of the 'paint'? Where is the 'work' in 'oil'? Yet Saville's '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 Pang who has can bravely paint portraits without filling in the features.

The greatest abstract landscapist was arguably Turner who has never been unsurpassed because Turner was able to be absolute-abstract whilst paradoxically recording the 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; here art 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.



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: Here you will see straight away that Henry Moore is a 'contemporary' working 'now', whereas Gormley is long deceased and no longer working 'now' for Untitled' (for Francis), 1985, is uncannily (and 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 gormless).

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 assumes). 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, Van Gogh, 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) much more modern (more 'contemporary') than Walking Man, 1989, by Elisabeth Frink?

Why are conductors Arturo Toscanini, Otto Klemperer, Hans Rosbud or Bruno Maderna far more 'contemporary' (modern sounding) than Frans Brüggen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, or Roger Norrington? Arturo Toscanini, Otto Klemperer, Hans Rosbud and Bruno Maderna sound so fresh, so now, ('contemporary') than Frans Brüggen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, or Roger Norrington. Why can't conductors conduct Beethoven today? Why can't artists art today? To see why: please peruse a current Christie's or Sotheby's Contemporary Art Auction catalogue and you will 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 Christie's or Sotheby's 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. Christie's and Sotheby's should sell their Bacon in the Old Masters auctions where Bacon rightly belongs; conversely, of course, the Old Masters are still our only true contemporaries. Ancient Egyptian Art is still not quite yet Contemporary Art being always already 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 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 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: the 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 'period-instrument' performances of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The oxymoron 'conceptual art' and the oxymoron 'contemporary art' are the 'aesthetically correct'. Art cannot be conceptual. Art cannot be contemporary. Art is the refusal of the temporal. Art is the refusal of the conceptual.






                                                                                                                                                                                      Ruben Pang, Theatre No. 9, 2011




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 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-where 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 and I am only ever free when not at home but on the road for to be truly free is not 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 property is your fear of freedom. And property is not a place. And we are not persons but potential freedoms as paces way from properties of unfreedom. 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 the incarcerating ideology of possessing property for property ferments a fear of the other propertyless place.

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 thing, 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).

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 and the drip its intensity; it 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 and 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 so exemplified and epitomised in Bacon's ovoid black timpani strokes.






                                                                                                                                                                                    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 non-visual 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 for the smear like the stain cannot be wiped away for we all know by now that the more that you rub at a stain or a smear then the larger it becomes and 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 and not made in pain; the pleasure of the paint 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 jouissance: jettisoned pleasure: (being without meaning).


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

Francis Bacon's 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 Bacon's 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 Bacon's vocal paint. I succinctly remember seeing a Billie Holiday LP in Bacon's studio in 1982 and 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 Bacon's 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 and 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: for Bacon's ab-paint there is nothing to be said nothing to be written: all art analysis is anal: diarrhetic diatribes.

The grainy-paint of Bacon and the grainy voices of Borkh, Callas, Garland, Mödl, Price, Rysanek, Varnay, Vaughan, and Welitsch all attain an absolute-jouissance that thus by-pass the symbolic-scene (representation) by being the presentation of an attainable object as the real object of desire which is attained from the the grain-in-the-paint and the grain-in-the-voice (even if Lacanians and Zizekians - largely white heterosexual males - cannot attain absolute-jouissance).  Bacon, Borkh, Callas, Garland, Mödl, Price, Rysanek, Varnay and Welitsch do not represent the real-thing of absolute-jouissance but rather present it raw as-it-is as the absolute-jouissance real-thing of the real-infinite-in-itself as an 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 no mortality 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 delicious dasein offerings of an attained-absolute jaw-dropping jouissance.





                                                                                                                                                   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 and all that luxurious-cuisine that glistens and sizzles so seductively since one can actually smell as well as taste the culinary paint of Bacon which 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 and 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 marks that go straight to the mind and the body bypassing the brain altogether.

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 for 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 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 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 art is precisely timeless because it is precisely timefull: the radicality of great art announces to us all the absolute impossibility of 'art history' and history as such.

The mind and the body read abstract expressionism and non-illustrational portraiture through the mind of the body and the body of the mind by-passing 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 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 that is having a body.  Thus the art critic tends to use the head to think rather than think with the body.

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 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 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 the 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 photography can never render-record the face for 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 the 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 Saville's paint we immediately bear-witness to a class-antagonism of paint where Bacon's paint comes across as suave, refined, charming, elegant; aristocratic, high-class; whist Saville's 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' worker's hands; yet it was Bacon who had the high-class hand when painting and it is Saville who has the working-class hand when painting.

Servile Saville mimics a sort of slap-dash free-hand brush-stroke as a pseudo spontaneity pastiche-painting particularly reminiscent of twentieth-century German Expressionism; Saville's pseudo-brush-strokes always come across as 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 Sargent or Degas, Nolde or Soutine, or Auerbach and Bacon, who reinvented realism by doing facial features outside of inane illustration and therefore they all come way after Saville who, aesthetically speaking, predates them all.





                                                                                                                                                          Francis Bacon Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965)






                                                                                                                                                                         Jenny Saville Red Stare Head IV  (2006-2011)






                                                                                                                                                                             Emil Nolde, Frauen Portrait mit Hut (1907)





In juxtaposing Red Stare Head IV (2006-2011) by Jenny Saville between Francis Bacon and Emil Nolde we then immediately see just how crude and crass Saville really is and how fake the mock paint is as a meretricious mimicry of painting with paint. The eyes are pure photo-shop illustration surrounded by pastiche paint strokes to give it that painterly look but Saville does not understand the economy of paint and 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 stubbornly unwilling, to reinvent realism, as requested and quested by Bacon.

Whilst Bacon cannot be reproduced in reproductions and always looks so awful, Saville somehow always looks far superior in reproduction 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, Kossoff, Auerbach and Bacon can never ever be reproduced in reproductions and can only be seen live in the flesh. 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.

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 paint, as Bacon says, has a life all of its own’ and lives on its own whilst illustrational paint is necessarily dead paint. Saville illustrates through filling-in-form (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, 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 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 illustrational-illusion of painting-by-hand as if it were a real painting. Not surprisingly (though superficially) Sotheby’s catalogue notes sutures 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, 15 October, 2015).

What is this: extreme humanness? Where is this alleged: absolute masterclass in tone and texture? Where is: 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; 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 Saville who is still stuck in the late 19th century; the radical Nolde paints the eyes outside of illustration whilst the conservative Saville illustrates without painting.

 Saville would do well to spend several hours at the Gagosian Francis Bacon Couplings exhibition and bare witness to actual real paintings of facial features done outside of illustration. Saville professed to admire Bacon but never learnt from Bacon how to paint outside of illustration: 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? Saville must closely read Bacon on illustration and critically reflect upon where she goes tragically wrong:




Francis Bacon in conversation with Michael Archimbaud


"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 Joshua Gilder


"It's not all that difficult to sit down and illustrate a wave breaking on the shore, but that's 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 ay 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 Michael Peppiatt


"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."

"I'm trying to do some portraits now and I'm just hoping that they'll come about by chance. I want to capture an appearance without it being an illustrated appearance. I don't know how much it's a question of sensation about the other person. It's the sensations within yourself. It's to do with the shock of two completely unillustrational things which come together and make an appearance."




Francis Bacon in conversation with John Gruen


"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 in conversation with David Sylvester


"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."

"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 don't 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 I've 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."

"I've 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 I've 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 doesn't 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 don't know."







                                                                                                                                                                                 Francis Bacon, Two Figures on a Couch, 1967






Paint as 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.

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 for 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 being done over by time.

Contrary to the current misconceptions of Baconian tropes and clichés there is no sense of mortality, no sensation of mortality, in the paint and 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 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.

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 for the being of time does not age whilst the biology of time is the 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. 






                                                                                                                                                                                    Self-Portrait, 1660, 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 spirited 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 of the paint-spirit.

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): needing meaning is fearing painting. Necessarily then: reading about painting is not understanding painting.

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 and so 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 non-intellectual and anti-intellectual but of course art careerists who do Art Writing will necessarily protest and write inanities about art.

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.





                                                                                                                              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 your 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 Triptych August 1972.

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. The grian is also anti-thetical 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 a mtephor 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 Baacon's paint is necessarily non-visual because the grain in the paint castrates the vision of seeing the site which Bacon's paint blinds you from seeing sight.





                                                                                                                                                                                  Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait, 1968




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 over rehearsed dead-paint just as Freud or Auerbach or Kossoff come-off as dead-paint there as being dead painters always already dead for when the paint is ontologically dead to begin with then one begins to then question if Freud or Auerbach or Kossoff actually ever lived for paint is after all the empirical evidence for the existence of the painter for only if the painter is alive will the paint ever be-alive for da-sein is not always there in painting.

If you look at the portraits of Jenny Saville you 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-there 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 pint, the spunk of paint the piss of paint, the puss of paint, so safely remaining 'dry' and remaining at the level of illustration with no leaking allowed.

        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' and '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 is so synthetic (plastic) coming across as polished-off photo-shop, it not surprisingly reproduces so extremely well in glossy-shinny Sotheby's and Christie's auction catalogues, whereas, paradoxically, Bacon does not reproduce at all well simply because the primordial-ontology of the art brut paint resists and refuses being reproduced and appears absent.

        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 so thus de-ontologizing 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 actually looking far better in reproduction than in reality because they cannot and do not exist in reality. Not surprisingly then, Contemporary Art always comes across as being superior in reproduction in Christie's and Sotheby's catalogues than on the walls of the auction houses where it always looks so dead.






                                                                                                                                                                        Francis Bacon, Study for Head of Lucian Freud, 1967






                                                                                                                                                                                                 Ruben Pang, Theatre No.6, 2011






                                                                                                                                                                                  Non-Illustrational Self-Portrait A.V.E. 2000





        Unlike Jenny Saville, Ruben Pang can paint facial features outside of illustration as illustrated in Theatre No. 6 and this is painted with ontological paint unlike the paint of Saville which has non-ontological lacking dasein whilst pretending to be there with those pseudo-faux brush-strokes to give the appearance and presence of paint. Saville paints pre-Bacon whilst Pang paints post-Bacon in the Bacon 'tradition' of non-illustration. One would of hoped that our Saville would have learnt from our Pang who is arguably the finest living painter today. Pang has dasein because the being of the paint is there. Saville has no dasein because the being of the paint is not there.

        Study for Head of Lucian Freud (1967), is arguably the greatest portrait by Francis Bacon; unlike so many portraits by Bacon, it is actually painted, and not illustrated; indeed, this is one of the very few portraits that Bacon actually painted and by actually painted meaning where the paint actually forms the form, and does not merely fill it in, as with the awful illustrational non-painted double-portrait, Two Studies for a Self-Portrait (1970). The grain in the paint screeches like finger nails scratching across a chalkboard; the eyes hear the paint here; we see this portrait with our ear and taste it with our nostrils whilst our bodies shiver and spines tingle such is its sound.

Two Studies for a Self-Portrait (1970) is largely illustrational imprinted casually with corduroy trousers and cashmere sweaters and so one is perplexed as to why Oliver Barker stated: "Two Studies for a Self-Portrait goes straight in at number one of all the paintings I’ve handled in my career... To my mind, the painting is worthy of a place alongside the very finest self-portraits of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso... It’s certainly among the greatest self-portraits ever offered at auction. In this painting you see Bacon in a sense of great excitement in his life, this is an artist very much at the top of his game. For me this is one of the greatest paintings that has ever come to the market by Francis Bacon."  It’s certainly not among the greatest self-portraits ever offered at auction. Sales speak by sheer necessity of making sales castrates critique when one is selling such mediocre paintings for millions of pounds.





                                                            Framing Bacon

                                                                                                  The Economy of the Frame



                                                                                                                                                                                Study for Head of Lucian Freud, 1967, Francis Bacon






"The work of art still has something in common with enchantment: it posits its own, self-enclosed area, which is withdrawn from the context of profane existence, and in which special laws apply."

Theodor Adorno, The Dialectic of the Enlightenment, 1944



"Bacon’s seven paintings are capped by a big triptych of disquieting figures trapped within flat, blank, geometric voids and caged in a wide, golden frame — a Bacon signature. Art, like life, is its own prison, yet also a place for transgression."

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



"I suggested, in Baconian fashion, that we have a drink at the near by Ritz. After all, he reckoned to have divided his life "between the gutter and the Ritz" - a metaphor he continued in his art by insisting on those ritzy gilded frames, however squalid the subject they enclosed."

John McEwen, Terrible beauty or dirty mac decadence?, The Arts, The Sunday Telegraph, May 3, 1992



"Bacon wanted his pictures to endure; and that was surely the underlying reason why he decided to have their extravagant contents glazed and put in massive gilt frames, with all their raw paradox and enigma intact, just like the masterpieces enshrined in the great museums and churches of the world."

Michael Peppiatt,  The Sacred and The Profane; Francis Bacon - Studies for a Portrait,  Yale University Press: 2008



"I am not interested in painting as it has been accepted for so long – to hang on walls of houses as pictures. To hell with pictures – they should be the wall – even better – on the outside wall – of large buildings. Or stood up outside as billboards or a kind of modern 'icon'. We must make our art like the Egyptians, the Chinese & the African and the Island primitives – with their relation to life. It should meet the eye direct."

Ellsworth Kelly in a letter to John Cage: 4 September 1950



"For several reasons, he preferred his paintings to be hung under glass. As well as protecting the surface and establishing a distance between the picture and the viewer, the glass helped Bacon himself to achieve a sense of detachment that prevented him from revising or destroying his  own work. Above all, however, it had the effect of reducing the volatility of the surface structure and endowing the work with a stronger feeling of coherence and finality."

Wieland Schmied, Francis Bacon; Commitment and Conflict, 2006



"I feel that, because I do not use varnishes or anything of that kind, and because  of the very flat way I paint, the glass helps to unify the picture. I also like the distance  between what has been done  and the onlooker that the glass creates; I like, as it were,  the removal of the object as far as possible.  It’s the distance – that this thing is shut away from the spectator."

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



"The parergon inscribes something which comes as an extra, exterior to the proper field (here that of pure reason and of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) but whose transcendent exteriority comes to play, abut onto, brush against, rub, press against the limit itself and intervene in the inside only to the extent that the inside is lacking. It is lacking in something and it is lacking from itself. "

Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, University of Chicago Press: 1987



"Bacon liked his paintings to be glazed and gold-framed. This distanced them, enhanced their costliness and gave them a propriety which the picture itself could then flout. He also liked the way one sees oneself dimly in the picture glass, as though window shopping at Dewhurst or Heal's, superimposed on the seclusion within. Technically, Bacon was a gambler, so much so that new paintings often needed immediate attention from the restorer. His hit-and-miss attitude seemed part of a desire to tempt failure."

William Feaver, Raffish old master of the elusive, The Observer, Sunday, 3 May, 1992



"The most interesting, profound and introspective things can be said when there's no prompting. So, to wait is one of the rules. The other is not to argue with their opinions; there's no point. I said to Bacon when he put down Abstract Expressionism, so why do you think it moves me? And he said, 'oh, you're too subject to fashion', or something like that. Well, I didn't argue with him, and I didn't argue with him about his idiotic opinions about Pollock. You're not there to argue with the interviewee, but you are there to probe. I should have probed more."

David Sylvester, In memoriam David Sylvester - The art of the interview, Tate, Issue 26/Autumn 2001




"I always prefer my canvases to be in a frame and under glass. There is a current vogue for not framing pictures any more, but I feel that this is wrong, bearing in mind what a painting is. The frame is artificial and that's precisely why it's there; to reinforce the artificial nature of the painting. The more the artificiality of the painting is apparent, the better, and the more chance the painting has of working or of showing something. That might seem paradoxical, but it makes perfect sense in art: one achieves one's goals by using the maximum of artificial means, and one succeeds much more in doing something authentic when the artificiality is patently obvious. "

Francis Bacon, In conversation with Michel Archimbaud,  Phaidon Press: 1993



"Bacon always had his paintings glazed and framed, which notoriously makes viewing the paint more difficult and requires our movement to see beyond the reflective surface to the image behind. It may not be coincidental that this idea of glass as a surface, mirror and transparent membrane was first exploited by the French dada artist Marcel Duchamp in his major installation The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even (The large glass) 1915–23 (fig 5). For Duchamp, this difficulty of seeing, including the reflection of the viewer in the glass, ensured the physiological participation of the audience in the work, transferring the construction of feeling from author to viewer. It is likely that Bacon embraced these effects as part of his interest in movement although he made little of it in his interviews."

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



"A sense of dilemma leads me to reconsider a feature of his art that I have regarded as finicky and precious: his insistence that all his paintings be displayed behind glass, in gold frames. The only reason I could surmise for this was that Bacon used glass as a prosthetic gloss to unify his lurchingly fragmented surfaces. But having witnessed, at the Met, the gleaming parade of his career, I begin to understand the policy as a poignant gesture that weds decorative chic to fierce aspiration. Reflecting in more ways than one, the framing registers the viewer’s physical presence and, abstractly, the hermetic fate of Western painting, fallen from the Renaissance into a state of besiegement by cameras and printing presses. Bacon’s paintings objectify the subjective ordeal of perishing bodies that harbor immortal longings. In this, the paintings are indeed great, standing for a historical condition even of people who can’t abide them."

Peter Schjeldahl, Rough StuffThe New Yorker, June 1, 2009



"The frame: a parergon like the others. The series might seem surprising. How can one assimilate the function of a frame to that of a garment on (in, around, or up against) a statue, and to that of columns around a building? And what about a frame framing a painting representing a building surrounded by columns in clothed human form? What is incomprehensible about the edge, about the a-bord appears not only at the internal limit, the one that passes between the frame and the painting, the clothing and the body, the column and the building, but also at the external limit. The parergon stands out [se detache] both from the ergon (the work) and from the milieu, it stands out first of all like a figure on a ground. But it does not stand out in the same way as the work. The latter also stands out against a ground. But the parergonal frame stands out against two grounds [fonds], but with respect to each of those two grounds, it merges [se fond] into the other."

Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, University of Chicago Press: 1987



"I always prefer my canvases to be in a frame and under glass. There is a current vogue for not framing pictures any more, but I feel that this is wrong, bearing in mind what a painting is. The frame is artificial and that's precisely why it's there; to reinforce the artificial nature of the painting. The more the artificiality of the painting is apparent, the better, and the more chance the painting has of working or of showing something. That might seem paradoxical, but it makes perfect sense in art: one achieves one's goals by using the maximum of artificial means, and one succeeds much more in doing something authentic when the artificiality is patently obvious. "

Francis Bacon, In conversation with Michel Archimbaud,  Phaidon Press: 1993



"At a time when museums are tending to remove the glass from all but the most valuable paintings and when artists are shying away from notions of fine art and precious objects, it is rare to find a painter who wants his work to be presented in so formal and even sumptuous a manner. Bacon explains that the glass is to 'remove the images further. I don't think art is available; it's rare and curious and should be completely isolated. One is more away of its magic the more it's isolated.' The dualistic nature of Bacon's art - the ability to maintain a balance between the 'vivid' and the 'formal,' to achieve the integration of small-sketch sensibility and large-canvas grandeur, to exploit the tension between figurative resemblance and the abstract accidentalism of technique - accounts for his success in eluding categorization."

Hugh M. Davies, 'Bacon's “Black” Triptychs', Art in America, vol.63, no.2, March-April, 1975



"Other elements support these paintings and their figures to function as perfect Gestalt, however. Bacon was very outspoken about how he wanted his works to be shown. He wanted his paintings to be covered by glass. To hide paintings by glass is a kind of curse in the art world. It is only done in the case of extremely valuable paintings, which need to be protected, as required by the insurance. But Bacon thought that his paintings looked best when they were covered by glass. The glass in front of the painting tends to mirror the viewer’s body. It is as if the paintings’ potential functioning as a Gestalt for the viewer is emphasised, or made easier. The viewer has difficulty seeing the painting as paint. Te glass dissolves the materiality of paint and what can be recognised is only the represented figure and space. It is only after some effort, after the viewer has positioned herself at the right spot and angle, that she can look through the glass and see the skin of the figure as well as of the paint."

Ernst van Alphen, Skin, body, self: the question of the abject in the work of Francis Bacon; Abject Visions, Manchester University, July 2016



"There are good Bacons, sublime and terrifying ones, and a few failures. He must have been one of the most self-critical artists of the 20th century, a ruthless destroyer of his own work. Beyond a certain point he could not rework an image: it had to be scrapped. To hang on to it would have blurred and fouled up the "look" he prized, which was not highly finished - his way of painting on the wrong side of the canvas precluded finish - but, by the standards of "beautiful painting", disagreeably scrubby. But then, he did so admire and envy the old masters, and he paid a peculiar sort of tribute to them in the way he chose to frame and present his paintings, behind enormous sheets of glass (so that one had the fleeting impression of glimpsing something rather alarming, but involuntarily, as through a window) and surrounded by broad, thick, glittering, gilded mouldings, so polished and bright as to negate the idea of touch. The frame and its contents do not quite cancel one another out, but they imply cancellation. Which, together with the anguish of the body's transgressive pleasures, is only another of Bacon's paradoxes."

Robert Hughes, Horrible!, The Guardian, August 30, 2008



"We are told in Dawn Ades' essay in the catalogue for the Tate Gallery exhibition that Bacon does not consider a picture finished until it is framed.  He considers the glazing gives 'a unified texture to the painting,' and Ms Ades affirms 'the glass, then, is an essential element in the material surface of the paint' (page 9). It is a bit tempting to risk the picayune question whether there are many circumstances in which glass would not confer a 'surface' or for that matter be one ... or the impertinent observation that it's no secret that posh frames and glass can make silk purses out of sows' ears. One can ask more serious questions, make more sonorous observations, however. The enigmaticness of the paint and pastel effects of the glazed paintings are simply absent from unglazed ones. In these latter the onlooker is aware of a facture that is incompetent as a structural variant of that factural property which produces a dialectic of bathos and reassurance, a resonance between figurative or representational considerations and paint surface. The frames themselves are the top of the range. They confer a strange (and no doubt interesting) character of kitsch upon the paintings conceived as figural spectacles. Some of the most magnificently caparisoned paintings are, in some reading, spectacles of illegal thrills, flesh wounds, invoke radiography, diseases of the mouth, facial sores, scenes of violence, etc. To those contemplating these sights, the handsome frames present a voyeuristic safety."

Michael Baldwin, Mel Ramsden, Charles Harrison, Francis Bacon, Artscribe, No. 53, July-August 1985



"The point, for Bacon, is to get distance from reality, so as to keep feeling pure and alert, charged with abstract power. This holds true for the reality of his own works, from which he tries to make the spectator keep his distance by framing them in gold and glass. Such framing is the major example of the homosexual's artificialism, which finalizes his aestheticism. The way Bacon takes an appearance as 'real' while knowing it is false is similar to Sartre's example of Genet's artificialism: the treatment of cut glass as a precious gem while knowing it is cut glass. Talking oneself into belief is crucial, to sustain the aesthetic sensibility which is the foundation of emotional responsiveness in art. Bacon wants his framing method — as though a precious setting would make us think the art precious, i.e., believe in it — to create 'distance between what has been done and the onlooker' and serve to 'shut (the work) away from the spectator.' It is better that it remain a mysterious symbol than indicate a familiar reality, or itself become one. The full import of the glass framing is that it creates a quasi-old-master look, doubly removing the work, in space as well as concept. This removal — the added distance — filters the feeling through with greater purity and power, as well as emphasizes that it is impossible for art to refer to anything beyond itself, i.e., that is not an appearance. Unwittingly, Bacon links up with modernism's self-reflexivity, but in terms of feeling rather than form. On the level of feeling as well as form art is sui generic."

Donald Kuspit, Francis Bacon: The Authority of Flesh, ARTFORUM, Vol. 13, No. 10, Summer, 1975



"The late Francis Bacon might not appear to have very much in common with an anonymous 15th- century painter of devotional art from Pskov but his Small Portrait Studies at the Marlborough Gallery share a lot of the characteristics of holy Russian icons. If the icon-painter's conventional treatment of the human face makes the saint seem like a being suspended between this world and the next, real yet also holy, Bacon's self-created figurative conventions tend in the opposite direction. Rendering people as restive blurs of swiped paint, he makes of them an odd blend of the human and the animal. Bacon's portraits, like icons, use the transfiguring capacities of painting to talk about the capacity to be transfigured that is inherent within all people - but the difference is that, whereas the icon speaks of an upward transfiguration, an ascent to holiness, Bacon's paintings see only the possibility of people becoming still less than they are. For the abstract gold ground of the icon, symbol of holiness, Bacon substitutes lurid grounds of dark red, green, pink or yellow: his people exist not in a sacred void but simply in a void. But these paintings are less despairing than they are often made out to be. At their best (up until the late 1960s), Bacon's small portraits have a kind of savage, joyous vigour and carnality which communicates not existential gloom but a weird form of celebration - something like the manic exuberance of someone who knows he does not have long to live but has decided (what the hell) to enjoy being alive while he can. These pictures find a kind of spiritual strength in the denial of spirituality."

Andrew Graham-Dixon, From icon to Bacon , The Independent, 26 October, 1993



"The experience of a work of art's formal unity has, since Kant, been seen as a manifestation of some metaphysical unity: the unity of the faculties of cognition, or as an intuition of the unity of the Spirit. It is seen, in other words, as a symptom in one way or another of man's at-homeness in the world. 'I hate a homely atmosphere', Bacon has said discussing the disjuncture between his painterly painting of forms and figures and the flat and linear handling of the backgrounds and inanimate objects with which they co-exist. 'I always feel that malerisch painting has a too homely background ... I want to isolate the image and take it away from the interior of the home'.  Another device Bacon has used to isolate figures is the space-frame, those perspectival lines that seem to demark often invisible enclosures, but which sometimes become part of the architecture in which figures or forms exist. Bacon's is an emotive pictorial space, the space-frames are spatially incoherent. They refuse a consistent depth as well as two-dimensional pattern. They help to deny the integrity of the picture plane, that connoisseur's happy ending, that banality of good taste. Bacon's space is unsystematic, renegotiated, tested against affective resonance, against its imaginative life... In the discontinuities of pictorial language and space, Bacon articulates a rhetoric of the closed circle of the soul in a world that has lost meaning, lost coherence. But the isolation of figures within the space-frames is only an intensification of the predominant characteristic of most of his paintings; the isolated figure within the actual frame. Figures and forms alone within the rectangle of the canvas."

Andrew Brighton, Why Bacon is a Great Artist, Art Monthly, No. 88, July/August 1985



"Again Bacon's effect was not only unexpected; the very dimension in which his shock was delivered was surprising. Bacon was painting now on defiantly raw and unprepared canvas. The paint soiled it or clogged it uncouthly. Then, by another defiant incongruity, heavy frames in burnished gold such as Paul Rosenberg himself awarded to Picasso and Braque, set Bacon's almost insanitary coarseness in the most luxurious context imaginable. Another breach with fashion, as if to protect something refined and precious, these pictures were exhibited under glass. Bacon insisted on it and published the peremptory note pasted on the reverse as if it was a part of the picture. So it was; even the reflections in the glass added a unique completeness. There could be no more categorical defiance of conventional taste, the taste for the specifically visible qualities of visual art. The manifesto embraced the setting in which three pic tures were exhibited, the most elegant gallery in the most elegant part of town where the floor was covered from wall to wall with a carpet of an intense violet that infused every impression and outlined the visitors' own reflections as they strived to attend with old-fashioned seriousness to the intrinsic appearance of these disturbing pictures. The regal popes and the defecating dogs were rendered in the same broken paint; the same delusive mirage flitted across the glass. The carelessness and scorn in Bacon's touch had from the beginning a marvelous bleakness, exciting to imaginative life. "I would like the intimacy of the image against a very stark background," he explained later. "I hate a homely atmosphere. ... I want to . . . take it away from the interior and the home."..."

Lawrence Gowing, Francis Bacon: The Human Presence; Francis Bacon, Smithsonian Institution, Thames & Hudson, 1989



"The problem of the frame and base, in painting and sculpture respectively, has never been examined by critics in terms of its significant implications as static. The phenomenon is registered but simply as a curious detail that escapes the problematics raised by the work of art. What had not been realised was that the actual work of art posited new problems and that it attempted to escape (to assure its own survival) the closed circuit of traditional aesthetics. To rupture the frame and to eliminate the base are not in fact merely questions of a technical or physical nature: they pertain to an effort by the artist to liberate himself from the conventional cultural frame, to retrieve that desert, mentioned by Malevich, in which the work of art appears for the first time freed from any signification outside the event of its own apparition. It could be said that all works of art tend towards the non-object and that this name is only precisely applicable to those that establish themselves outside the conventional limits of art: works that possess this necessary limitlessness as the fundamental intention behind their appearance. Putting the question in these terms demonstrates how the tachiste and l’informel experiments in painting and sculpture are conservative and reactionary in nature. The artists of these tendencies continue – although in desperation – to make use of those conventional supports. With them the process is contrary: rather than rupturing the frame so that the work can pour out into the world, they keep the frame, the picture, the conventional space, and put the world (its raw material) within it. They part from the supposition that what is within the frame is the picture, the work of art. It is obvious that with this they also reveal the end of such a convention, but without announcing a future path. This path could be in the creation of these special objects (non-objects) that are accomplished outside of all artistic conventions and reaffirm art as a primary formulation of the world."

Michael Asbury, Primary Formulation; Neoconcretism and Minimalism: On Ferreira Gullar's Theory of the Non-Object, Cosmopolitan Modernisms: 2005



"The experience of viewing paintings through glass is, of course, common for older works. The shift towards an emphasis on surface that characterized much avant-garde picture-making of the twentieth century, however, meant that the use of glass in framing became a rarity. In this context, Bacon’s insistence upon retaining it, despite employing complex facture in his own works, acts to call attention to it. The unusualness of seeing an avant-garde painting mounted behind glass makes the spectator aware of what is a relatively common but usually overlooked visual phenomenon. The presence of the glass means the viewer looks through their own reflection. This is encountered as a matter of fact when looking at Bacon's work.  The works are not static. The reflective glass renders them mutable. The exhibition space and its milling visitors appear on top of individual pictures, between beholder and image. The glass screens, it forms a motion picture. The ghostly reflections of spectators, fleeting apparitions, serve to foil vision as the eye chases them across the glass. Shifting presences must be seen through if the viewer is to appreciate the work. They must be filtered out  of conscious experience. The mirroring quality of the mounting produces a kind of disturbance in the field of vision. If the required act of filtration is not performed then the spectator must see their reflection in place of the work of art and thereby confront their act of seeing. The glass includes the beholder and the gallery space in the painting as a kind of interference or noise. It works to produce what can be described as a ‘making strange’ both of seeing and of the picture surface. In his essay ‘Art as Technique’, Victor Shklovsky wrote that the ‘technique of art is to make objects ‘‘unfamiliar’’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged’. Bacon could be said to cultivate just such an aesthetic, a teasing, perhaps even sadistic, one in which the pleasure of visual comprehension is, at least initially, deferred. The way Bacon’s paintings are framed does not detract from the pictorial surface for beholders but actually draws them to attend to it through the labour of divining what lies behind the darkling glass. The unruly reflections that thwart easy looking also constitute an assault on vision. The spectator is made to think about what it is to lose sight, to reflect on the invisible. "

Nicholas Chare, Upon the Scents of Paint: Bacon and Synaesthesia, Visual Culture in Britain, 20o9




The Frame as a Community of Singularity

The Frame or The Plinth present the Community of the One as the Solitary Confinement of the Community of the Artist. Artworks are necessarily 'anti-social' and do not 'mix-well' with other artworks and more precisely prefer to be-all-on-their-own within their-own-world as a world-of-their-own which is why there is no 'community art' or no 'communist art' or no 'socialist art' for art belongs to no 'society' for art does not 'socialise' for art is not a part of 'the community' free from 'all communities' existing-exogenously orbiting-oblivious ostracized-outcasts ordained-outside of 'human history' thus not being conditioned by the 'human condition' of the 'human community' but being bejewelled-beheaded bereaved-weathered where-there-are-no-they-there where-there-are-no-them-there where-there-are-no-their-there so art-is with-no they-then-being-there so art-is with-no-them-then-being-there.

Paintings want protection. To be protected from the outside. Protected from the inside. Protected by being framed and glazed. Paintings by their being are private personas and so solitary and anti-social and do not like being placed next to other paintings. Paintings are always uncomfortable and nervous when placed next to other paintings even if they often appear to be sociable and get on. Paintings want frames for reasons of privacy. Paintings demand frames in order to show their truth. When the painting becomes the wall is becomes a painted wall and not a painting: abstract-painting is necessarily indistinguishable from the wall that is from the painted-wall from being the painted wall no longer being an artwork. Abstract painting is the desire to naturalise art to domesticate art to make art a part of 'domestic life' as inane 'interior decoration' for that is all abstract painting can ever be.

To remove the frames from particular paintings is to remove their truth. The frame functions as the truth in painting. For paintings by Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Van Gogh, Manet, Sargent, Cézanne, Modigliani, Picasso, Jawlensky, Nolde, Soutine, and Bacon the frame is imperative, indeed, absolutely essential, and the choice of frame is an art in itself. The wrong frame can murder the painting and turn its truth into a lie. Framers: be warned. The frame initiates and instigates and installs further truth to the truth in painting by framing the truth on painting. The frame gives the painting its absolute freedom to be incarcerated outside of being-in-the-world for the painting is not of this world and knows nothing of being-in-the-world and need nothing of being-in-the-world because the da-painting is primordial-dasein and the frame institutes and constitutes the being-there-not-there of the painting and not forgetting also that the frame severs you from your dasein when you are looking into the painting being beheaded by the frame: the frame beheads you from your there where you then become one with the being of the painting being framed by the painting after being sutured by the frame. You resent the frame-there being-there because the frame-dasein de-frames (thus negates) your dasein. The framed-painting is the radical deconstruction of the being-human where the frame reveals the artificiality of the painting as the artificiality of the human where the frame ferments a being-art of the being-human as being-alien as absolutely-alien.

The truth in painting depends upon the truth of the frame that frames the truth and the truth in painting is being framed being in solitary confinement framed in the truth that is painting being framed. There is no truth in the painting of Hans Hofmann, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko because they cannot be framed and would look absurd being-framed for framing their paintings would be as absurd as framing painted-walls and wall-paper since their paintings share exactly the same economy as painted-walls and wall-paper (even though painted-walls and wall-paper are often framed by skirting-boards which frames. bacon was correct to nominate abstract-painting as decoration even though this is still a profoundly unfashionable thing to say even today.  Francis Bacon perfectly understood the radical-alterity of the frame in the way that the frame enhances and elevates the painting removing it from the natural world as well as the world of 'the everyday life' (whatever that means) and 'the community' (whatever that means). The fashion for removing the frame from painting is an attempt to bring 'democracy' and 'equality' to painting by supposedly setting it free. To repeat: paintings being solitary are anti-democratic, un-equal and anti-social and do not like 'to mix' with other paintings.

Abstract painting is the always already wall-of-the-wall before the ereignis of painting before the coming-into-view of the painting added to the wall and abstract painting being the wall before the event of painting remains just a wall painted a painted wall and so it would be senseless and meaningless to frame a wall that is to frame a painted wall: a Kelly or a Pollock or a Rothko would look absurd and out of place out of wall by being-framed: abstract painting is the negation of art and maybe necessarily so for abstract art is absolutely alien to art that is to being-art to the being of art for abstract painting is cosmological in its constellations-in-infinity that simply cannot be framed: abstract-painting is that which is always already outside of the frame without having a frame of reference and that is radical-alterity of abstract-painting: abstract-painting as the refusal of the frame is the refusal of the being of painting for abstract-painting is the negation of being because abstraction is that which is without being: one cannot be abstract. Being is not abstract, being is not abstraction: being is image. Bacon said to Gilder: "To tell you the truth, no abstract painting has ever given me the exhilaration of figurative painting. In fact, it bores me. Profoundly When I first heard of Rothko, I thought, well, here is going to be somebody doing the most marvelous things, like Turner, in abstraction. But the problem - with all of abstract expressionism - comes from lack of subject. I think that no matter how far you deviate from it, you need the discipline of the subject. You need the pulsation of the image, the force of the image, to go beyond decoration. Which Rothko didn't have. It was always a beautiful decoration." (Francis Bacon to Joshua Gilda, Flash Art, May, 1983). Bacon was right about Rothko and Pollock yet Sylvester stated: "I said to Bacon when he put down Abstract Expressionism, so why do you think it moves me? And he said, 'oh, you're too subject to fashion', or something like that. Well, I didn't argue with him, and I didn't argue with him about his idiotic opinions about Pollock. You're not there to argue with the interviewee, but you are there to probe.." (The art of the interview, Tate, Issue 26/Autumn 2001).(Classical Music is not at all abstract or imageless as Classical Music is being-for-itself having the subject and thus having the image and is thus 'identifiable' as living-image as living-subject as living-being as a being-music.)

Abstract painting is profoundly petty-bourgeois with its home-interior background-decoration mural-muzac of soporific-sensations. Bacon detested the decorative 'homely atmosphere' of abstract-painting and said to Sylvester: "I want to isolate the image and take it away from the interior of the home". Abstract painting is cynically used as sedative background-decoration in bank-lobbies to comfort (and conceal) the violence of financial terrorism. Abstract-painting is a tranquilizer for the forgetting of being-human, being alive: abstract-painting has no tension or vibration of being for it lacks the being of the image since there is nothing-there and yet that is why abstract-painting has such an alluring appeal under consumer-capitalism: there is no threat of being, not even a trace of being. Bacon said to Sylvester: "I believe that art is recording. I think it’s reporting. And I think that in abstract art, as there’s no report, there’s nothing other than the aesthetic of the painter and his few sensations. There’s never any tension in it. I think it can convey very watered-down lyrical feelings, because I think any shapes can. But I don’t think it can really convey feeling in the grand sense." What Bacon says is absolutely true though this is not a fashionable thing to say and Sylvester - like so many uncritical contemporary art critics - followed the fashion of following abstract painting where intellect informs them and not instinct and the very nomination of an 'art critic' is an intellectual who writes about art (even though that is an impossible thing to do: this is why the 'art critic' does not actually exist and which is why there cannot be such a discourse as 'art criticism' (or 'art writing'). Coward Sylvester was a slave to fashion and went along with the fashions of his day; brave Bacon did not.

The essence of the economy of the frame is the pull-push play of the frame as patently played out played in-on-out-of the fort-da-frame that frames as it throws and throws as it frames for the frame forges a frisson of nervous anxious tension as a dice of difference decapitating the painting from the presence the painting for the frame removes both the viewer from the painting and the painting from the frame as well as from the frame of the viewer who is unconsciously framing the painting within and without of the framed-painting. Thus the frame and glass cause you an alien anxiety and a dasein dread for they exclude you turning you away whilst also inviting you in.

To remove the frame is to remove the play of difference and distance of the painting that cannot exist without a frame being there: the frame gives the painting the dasein that it cannot have for painting is the refusal of dasein for the painting is its own da-sein without the dasein of the world. The frame as fort-da fort-throws the painting-ahead away from you only to ricochet returning the painting back toward you for the painting is thrown-ahead of you in order to be returned to you thrown at you away from you coming back to get you. Only by going too far can one get near so to throw the painting is to retrieve the painting and the frame is the thrower and the retriever of the painting as a dice-dasein.

Far from being a form of conserving concealing-containment the frame frees the form from the frame out-in itself where the frame is being-in-itself allowing the painting to be being-for-itself and as the supplement surplus the frame throws the painting in an infinite fort-da free-play: the frame gives the painting its infinity. The frame is the crypt which takes in and incorporates the being of the painting: the frame-crypt caresses the carcase of the painting keeping it infinitely fresh and succulently served: the frame keeps the painting fresh and free from contamination free from other paintings that may not be framed: the frame keeps the painting free from diseases.

The frame does not mark a limit but ignites infinity and activates the artingness of art as artificially-real as the rolling reel removal from the real. The frame makes a difference marks a difference makes a différance marks a  différance in setting and severing the sensation the metaphysical mooding of the abjected-abimage: the frame is not a frame that frames but a flame that inflames inflaming the image igniting the image initiating the image letting the image be in-it-self out-it-self as an interstice inheritance. The frame deconstructs the Enframing of the sutured space of the art gallery which is a Frame of Containment: the frame decapitates deranged Political Correctness. The frame severs the face from the space of the subject: the frame radically removes the Face from the Head. The frame fuels the face - the frame frees the face from the space of the subject - frame decapitates dasein by beheading the head of the severed subject from being there to being thrown over there as an absent abjected alienality. The frame beheads the head: the frame beheads you from your body from your frame.

The frame for Bacon is Blanchot's entretien: that which severs sutures: separating by joining the out-of-joint alternating altarity between being-attained and being-abjected and so here the frame holds the head together apart decapitating dasein severing the subject form the abject. The frame is the between [entre-deux] delivering distance joining jouissance abjected-apart for the fort-da-frame is dasien-différance disseminating-dasein in framing the fermenting-presence of an infinite-immediate image - as an absence of a nearness of a farness as a closeness of a distance as near-by far-off the the frame is the infinite-interval in between Being and being by becoming the Unifying union of an Original origin delivering différance by diverting Dasein thus the removing the frame is the forgetting and negation of art différance as the economy of the frame is différance par excellence activating art.

Thus the Frame literally makes a difference as a radical différance severing the framed-spectator from the space-frame of the abimage: the fort-da-frame throws the framed-spectator out-of-frame-with-being-there: by removing the frame one unifies the spectator-subject with space of sameness that surrounds the framed-spectator so then there is no difference between the abimage and the spectator-frame thus the removing of the frame is a conservative act reducing art to 'decoration' and 'democracy' - and art is the arch-enemy of 'decoration' and 'democracy': art cannot be elected. The fort-da-frame also activates and attunes the metre and the moment and the mood of the paint-being thrown-there: the thrown-frame flames-enflames enframes as it ignites-images ahead a head alive: the frame brings presence to the absence there: the frame is the dasein of the painting that cannot be there. The dasein-frame makes the impossible painting possible. But 'politically correct' curators want to 'democratise' art for 'the community' by removing the frame which is seen as being 'elitist' and 'hierarchal' as set-apart above 'the masses'. The 'politically correct' curator has bourgeois-guilt and bourgeois-shame about the frame for the frozen frisson of the frame ferments an acute anxiety for the 'politically correct' curator.

The 'politically correct' curator does not know that the painting or the sculpture are actually alive always already assuming painting and sculpture to be merely a representation. So the removing of the glass and the frame are done without consulting the painting or consulting the sculpture which is an act of acute violence directly akin to skinning someone alive: thus it is imperative that you now watch someone filmed being skinned alive as available on the internet in order for you to truly understand the extreme pain and agony that the painting or the sculpture feel when their glass, frame, plinth are skinned from their body alive: painting and sculpture are ontological: they live.  However, art-works are, of necessity, by necessity, always already, above the human-being which is, after-all, and before-all, what makes them art-works to begin with and to end with as it were, as it was, as it is.

The frame ferments the enigmaticalness of the painting and the frame refuses the subject entrance and engagement into the painting keeping the painting private property and not public property and paradoxically this is not reactionary but radical for the artwork is a protest against they They being able to do art as against the democracy of art against the idiotic idea so fashionable today that 'anyone can do art' that 'anyone can be an artists' for art is the refusal of the everyone can: to say that anyone can be an artist is as absurd as saying that anyone can be a conductor: the fact remains: there are very few artists and conductors that actually exist and yet we live in a dumbed-down capitalist-culture where 'they say' that anyone can be an artist, where 'they say' that anyone can be a conductor: any-one means no-one.

The Abstrakter Kopf of Jawlensky and Study Head of Bacon share the same sensation of spirit and this spirit-sensation needs the frame to ignite and initiate its being-spirit severed from being-body that is being-flesh for both Abstrakter Kopf of Jawlesnky and Study Head of Bacon are stripped of the skin of being-flesh. The late self-portraits of Bacon are ghostly and so spiritual being-fleshless being-meatless where we are no longer just being-meat. One is reminded that was is remaindered in the late self-portraits of Bacon is flesh-made-spirit where we sensation spirit there where the flash has long since frizzled out and faded away where what is left-over is being-spirit.

The frame frees the form from the ground whilst grounding the form since the frame severs the form from the body of the world as the head from the body where the beheaded head is the freed form for the frame frees the form from the body of the ground that is the body of the world where frame frees the head from the body where the frame is the neck that is that being-in-between of the head and the body thus to frame is to free a head from a body. The frame enhances the painting and the frame completes the painting which is why framing is an art in itself for the wrong frame can wound a painting can ruin a painting can kill a painting. Which frame is the most important question for the life of the painting as framing both the mood and moment of the painting: the frame sets the scene like a film director 'frames a shot'. To remove the frame is to negate art. Art is framing.




                                                    Understanding Bacon



                                                                                                                                                                                   The Real Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson





"A story? No. No stories, never again."

Maurice Blanchot, The Madness of the Day, 1981




"I've no story to tell. If you can talk about it, why paint it?"

Francis Bacon, Unnerving Art, New York Times Magazine, August 20, 1989




"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




"You know how difficult it is to say anything about painting — you feel the images themselves. Well somehow that's all there is to say."

Francis Bacon, Carcasses and crucifixes, The Times, Monday May 20, 1985




"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 – use words, not paint."

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




"Most of the time when one talks about painting, one says nothing interesting. It's always rather superficial. What can one say? Basically, I believe that you simply cannot talk about painting, it just isn't possible."

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon 1962-1979; David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1980




"I once heard this loud voice coming from behind a Damien Hirst installation proclaiming: 'Do you call that art?' I was expecting the see a sergeant-major wearing a monocle with a copy of The Daily Telegraph tucked under his arm. Then suddenly he appeared and I saw it was Francis Bacon."

Mark Cousins in conversation with Alexander Verney-Elliott, London, 2018




"Ugly? It’s all a matter of perception. I would never use the word ‘ugly’. When I first saw a Bacon painting, I thought it the most interesting thing I’d ever seen. Among all the ‘pretty’ art, I could hardly wait to see more. I can hardly wait for his paintings to get here. I could sit and look at them forever."

Hugh Davies, Conversion of a Skeptic; Virginia Butterfield, San Diego Magazine, February, 1999




"Very few people like poetry or painting; they really want a story. I don't like stories; I'm not a narrative painter. Painting is a language on its own; it is very difficult to translate into words. I wouldn't have anything to say. I want to convey reality without illustrating. In the sea inside one, everything is filtered in the unconscious and images surface — I'm very delighted when they do."

Francis Bacon, Talking to Francis; Alistair Hicks, The Spectator, 25 May, 1985




"I have fairly conservative tastes. I love eighteenth-century French painting, Watteau and Chardin especially. Among contemporary artists I like abstract painting a lot–Robert Mangold, Sean Scully, David Reed. Who can actually love Duchamp’s work? What I hate is being manipulated. I hate Francis Bacon for that reason. But I forgive Norman Rockwell, since I am given to sentimentality."

Arthur Danto, The Philosophy of Art; The Nation, August 18, 2005




“Of course I suffer. Who doesn’t? But I don’t feel I’ve become a better artist because of my suffering but because of my willpower and the way I worked on myself. In a sense I could say that I painted my own life ... but only in a sense. Very few people have a natural feeling for painting, and so they naturally think that it is an expression of the artist’s mood. But often he may be in greatest despair and painting his happiest paintings.”

Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon: A Night's Journey and a Day, John Gruen, Vogue, 15 October 1971




 "If you go into one of those big butcher's shops, especially Harrods — it is not to do with mortality like lots of people think, but it's to do with the colour of the meat. The colour of meat is so powerful, so beautiful really. People ask me why my pictures have this feeling of rawness and mortality. If you think of a nude, if you think of anything going on around you, think how raw it all is. How can you make anything more raw than that?"

Francis Bacon, Carcasses and crucifixes, The Times, Monday May 20, 1985




"When people like Frank say it isn't chance or accident or whatever you want to call, in a way I know what they mean. And yet I don't know what they mean because I don't think one can explain it It would be like trying to explain the unconscious. It's also always hopeless talking about painting — one never does anything but talk around it — because, if you could explain your painting,  you would be explaining your instincts."

Francis Bacon, Interviews with Francis Bacon 1962-1979; David Sylvester, Thames & Hudson: 1980




"I think that Bacon was a mannerist in the sense that his way of doing things was more important than the subject itself. The easiest evidence of that is when he used to load his brush with white paint and flick it at a picture which was nearing completion. This stream of white paint tells us absolutely nothing. However, there are aspects of his work which are very beautiful in terms of subtlety of handling and modelling, for example."

Brian Sewell; Naim Attallah, Dialogues, Quartet Books: 2000




"I don’t know how much it’s a question of sensation about the other person. It’s the sensations within yourself. It’s to do with the shock of two completely unillustrational things which come together and make an appearance. But again it’s all words, it’s all an approximation. I feel talking about painting is always superficial. We have lost our real directness. We talk in such a dreary, bourgeois kind of way. Nothing is ever directly said."

Francis Bacon, An Interview with Francis Bacon - Provoking Accidents, Prompting Chance,  Michael Peppiatt, Art International, Autumn 1989




"When one talks about paintings, it's 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 treatmentThe Sunday Times, 25th September 1988




"FRANCIS BACON is unquestionably the most celebrated and the most prestigious of British painters. An exhibition of his work anywhere in the world is always a major artistic event. He returns obsessively not so much to certain themes as to certain emotions—horror, anxiety, fear. What emerges from Bacon's late paintings is a contempt for the audience which is also, perhaps, the painter's contempt for himself. Can art as great as Bacon's is supposed to be, base itself upon a sneer?"

Edward Lucie-Smith, Bacon's contempt, London Art Review, Evening Standard, Thursday January 5, 1978




"Horrifying, terrifying, shocking, nauseating, grisly, menacing, brutal, cruel, squalid, ugly, nightmarish, disgusting, hellish, sado-masochistic, amoral, blood-chilling, horrible.... This is not, as you might imagine, a selection from Roget's Thesaurus headed "Unpleasurableness" or "Fear." Nor is it a quotation from a publicity handout for the latest horror film. It is simply a list of some of the adjectives used by art critics in praise of Francis Bacon's big retrospective exhibition now at the Tate."

Robert Wraight, Mirror of his age; Francis Bacon Tate Gallery, The Tatler, Wednesday 13, June 1962




"To some Mr. Francis Bacon is a highly gifted artist who misuses his talent in deliberate mystification and by his choice of preposterous, horrifying, and often repellent subjects. To others his view of the world as a place of obscure torments and inexplicable alarms is as original and interesting as one of Kafka's inventions; it maybe impossible to interpret his pictures with precision but each new glimpse of savagery or suffering, though seen only through a veil, has the effect of a disquieting truth."

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




"The dynamics of a Bacon painting are formulated by means of an unerring instinct for the right pictorial thrust and gesture. The uniqueness of his style is based on a vision that concerns itself with precise yet never photographic observation. It is a deeper form of reality, as actually felt as it is observed. The terror it may engender is merely a by-product of a clarity filtered through intuitions that unwittingly unmask the cores of fear—exposed nerve-endings residing just beneath the skin. The results are invariably disquieting."

John Gruen, Francis Bacon: A Night's Journey and a Day, Vogue, London, 15 October, 1971




"The painter's vision is not a view upon the outside, a merely 'physical-optical relation' with the world. The world no longer stands before him, through representation; rather it is the painter to whom the things of the world give birth by a sort of concentration or coming-to-itself of the visible. Ultimately painting relates to nothing at all among experienced things unless it is first of all 'autofigurative'. It is a spectacle of something only by being a 'spectacle of nothing', by breaking the 'skin of things' to show how the things become things, how the world becomes a world."

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eye & Mind; The Primacy of Perception, Northwest University Press, 1964




"Bacon and his defenders spend a good deal of their time in print warning against the dangers of taking his paintings too literally. Yet such is the brutal directness of such images that it is, I suggest, well nigh impossible not to take them literally. Unless that is the audience enters into some sort of pact of intellectual dishonesty with the painter and pretends not to recognise what it sees. It is just as preposterous to claim as some observers claim (with their eyes closed you feel, and their fingers crossed) that their is nothing 'horrific' about these images, that they are images of beauty, and that Bacon's primary considerations are formal."

Waldemar Januszczak, Behind the brutality of Bacon, The Guardian, Wednesday, May 22, 1985




"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




"Bacon had a poor opinion of people's understanding of painting, and no patience at all with the habitual endeavour to 'see' meaning instead of seeing the aesthetics of the paint itself. How wonderfully right he was. Bacon transcends realism, but not appearance, and not the factual reality. This remains absolutely central, and is the reason Bacon eschewed abstraction in art. volume. He is not a painter to be 'enjoyed' in the conventional sense. His canvases overwhelm. No book can present in any adequate way the aggressive nature of his vision, the scale of his work, the sheer power of the paint, the visceral sense of human life which is combined with a perverse but very real humanity."

Bruce Arnold, Bringing home the Bacon, The Irish Independent, Saturday 3 June, 2000




"Some critics have objected that Bacon fails in terms of tragic catharsis, but I am never happy about the application of that term in paintings, the act of participation is so different. For me Bacon's paintings are not wilfully destructive, not merely morbid, and rarely in the bad sense sensational. They seem rather to supply a visual identity for certain phases of consciousness, and once a thing is identified, one's hope of perhaps not exorcising it, but of exercising it, of coping with it, is enhanced, and with that the scope of life is enhanced. Bacon, though perhaps willy-nilly as far as he is concerned, is one of the major prophets in paint of our time, as richly eloquent in his imagery as any prophet of the Old Testament."

David Piper, Painting of the Month Francis Bacon's Figure in a Landscape, The Listener, Volume 72, Number 1837, Thursday June 11, 1964




"I have never made concessions.  Not to fashion, not to constraints, not to anything. I've been lucky enough not to have to, but it's in my character to refuse social life, obligations, and to prefer simple people to sophisticated people. And luck has had it that I Haven't needed to compromise myself in any way. Perhaps, since I haven't been to school like other people, I have invented my own rules which please me and which above all are more suited to me. And we always talk rubbish in the small world of art. I think David Sylvester is a very intelligent man, but I don’t think he has a genuine feel for painting because in the book he wrote with me he mentioned all sorts of frightful people, all these painters whom he loved and admired. I think he has no critical sense."

Francis Bacon, The Last Interview, Francis Giacobetti: 1991-1992



“There's nobody I'd rather be with than that man. Not only does he have a very original intelligence about art but also has an almost Shakespearian way of expressing himself. Since he died, I've not thought about him as a painter. I've only thought about the qualities which have long made me feel he was probably the greatest man I've known, and certainly the grandest: His honesty with himself and about himself; his enthusiasm; his constant sense of the tragic and the comic; his appetite for pleasure; his fastidiousness; his generosity, not only with money
  that was easy   but with his time; above all, I think, his courage. He had faults which could be maddening, such as being waspish and bigoted and fairly disloyal, as well as indiscreet. But he was also kind and forgiving and unspoiled by success and never rude unintentionally."

David Sylvester to Paula Weideger on Francis Bacon, Preaching art, The Independent, Monday May 11, 1992




"... 'Bacon's painting challenges verbal explanation and, at the artist's request, we have not provided the customary notes on each picture', explains Alan Bowness in his forward to the Bacon catalogue. Later, in Andrew Durham's essay on Bacon's technique, Lucian Freud is quoted as saying that he thought Bacon's "urgency" in painting had to do with the fact that paint was was his only means  of expression. And yet Bacon's highly articulate responses to David Sylvester's questions must represent the most thorough explanation of his work by any artist in art history. This merely compounds the reviewer's difficulty. Of course, Bacon's whole art is one of literal disruption, of evading description now that the camera has made description redundant. Its subject is transience, its method reactionary, its desired result a succession of visual shocks that short-circuit the intellect. "I've made images that the intellect would never make," he said in his South Bank Show interview with Melvyn Bragg."

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




"It would be both unwise and unjust to write briefly about the retrospective exhibition of work by Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery.  Of course one thought one knew what to expect, and after a few minutes spent hastily surveying the five speciously hung  rooms, ones expectations were confirmed.  The impact is immediately shattering and becomes more so as one follows the roughly chronological sequence from 1944 (when, after a hiatus of seven years, he resumed painting) to the present day.  The usual adjectives - "nightmarish," "melodramatic," "cruel," "haunting," - are not inappropriate but they are only superficially true and as descriptions of the cumulative effect of the exhibition. After the first few minutes has been expanded to half an hour, they become inadequate. Buried under the surface levels of these often horrific and sometimes repellent images are deeper levels, equally disturbing but more worth analysing, and not until one can come to grips with them does the exhibition become serious and cease to be merely sensational." 

Eric Newton, MORTAL CONFLICT, The Guardian, Thursday, May 24, 1962




"The puffing and booming of Francis Bacon seems to me one of the silliest aberrations even of our exceptionally silly time. Here, summing up the silliness, is the director of the Tate, Mr Alan Bowness, in his foreword to the catalogue (a particularly sumptuous catalogue. Bacon is not a charlatan; he feels everything he expresses. Nor has he invented or imagined the darkness in man's soul; Auschwitz and Kolyma are not fairy-tales, nor is the Crucifixion. But Bacon's version of the latter illustrates perfectly the fatuousness of Mr Bowness's claim that Bacon would 'hang naturally in our museums beside those of Rembrandt and Van Gogh'.
It is much too late to turn the tide.The received wisdom among the bien-pensants is that Francis Bacon is a great artist, and his work a series of imperishable masterpieces; my claim that the received wisdom and his work alike are very great nonsense will convince nobody except small boys who notice that the Emperor has no clothes. All the same, we have a duty to the present, and one part of that duty is to distinguish constantly between the true and the false."

Bernard Levin, A genius? I say rotten, The Times, Friday, June 28, 1985




"Bacon's aesthetic importance has to do with his use of abstraction, geometrical as well as gestural, in the service of what Clement Greenberg dismissively called “human interest.” By using abstraction to allegorical ends, Bacon prevented it from becoming a dead end, as it did in the post-painterly abstraction Greenberg advocated. Bacon also suggests that abstraction must be alloyed with representation to keep the image of suffering—usually the domain of the old masters—convincing and fresh. More than any other artist since van Gogh, his idol as an adolescent, Bacon is a master of narcissistic injury. If van Gogh used the religion of  nature to express his suffering, Bacon embeds his pain in a distorted Christian iconography. Both verge on but avoid theatrical kitsch because of the abstract aesthetics that render their explosive imagery somehow peculiarly astringent. Bacon's art is a triumph of contradiction, but in these taut last works he has struck a balance between the extremes (without reconciling them), suggesting that he had finally found contemplative peace. His eschatological masterpieces convey inevitable truth without sacrificing personal meaning."

Donald Kuspit, Francis Bacon - Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Art Forum, Volume 37, Number 6, February 1999




"Bacon's work is the kind that invites stereotyped reactions. He is seen as a master of crisis, directing a horror movie. The adjective most often given to his work, nightmarish, is not quite true to Bacon's intentions; it does not go far enough. For nightmares, like movies, end. Bacon's images, on the other hand, are thrust at us as the enduring substance of reality. They are not fantasies, but observation slits into a Black Hole of Calcutta, in which man thrashes about, stifled by claustrophobia and frustration, stabbing with penis or knife at the nearest body. This, Bacon insists, is the real world; it defines the suppressed condition of actual life. Bacon's work is not pessimistic (or optimistic, for that matter), for it lives outside these parentheses on a terrain of amoral candor about the most extreme situations. "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom"—so William Blake, whose mask Bacon once painted. Bacon's career has been a pursuit of this truth, from the transvestite bars of 1920s Berlin to the green baize of Monte Carlo, where he still assuages his passion for gambling. He is the Genet of painting, most particularly in the lavishness with which he uses his own psyche as experimental material."

Robert Hughes, Out of the Black Hole, TIME, Monday December 13, 1971







"Authentic art of the past that for the time being must remain veiled is not thereby sentenced. Great works wait. While their metaphysical meaning dissolves, something of their truth content, however little it can be pinned down, does not; it is that whereby they remain eloquent. A liberated humanity would be able to inherit its historical legacy free of guilt. What was once true in an artwork and then disclaimed by history is only able to disclose itself again when the conditions have changed on whose account that truth was invalidated: Aesthetic truth content and history are that deeply meshed. A reconciled reality and the restituted truth of the past could converge. What can still be experienced in the art of the past and is still attainable by interpretation is a directive toward this state. Nothing guarantees that it will ever be followed. It is the course of time that unmasks these deficiencies, yet they are objective in quality and not a matter of shifting taste. Only the most advanced art of any period has any chance against the decay wrought by time. In the afterlife of works, however, qualitative differences become apparent that in no way coincide with the level of modernity achieved in their own periods."


Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, The Athlone Press London: 1997






"Bacon's Popes just open their crude mouths and scream, long and loud. A thousand different expressions of sophisticated humanity are obliterated by that single animal yell. Right at he start of the show a group of zoo animals, a baboon, a chimpanzee, bare their fangs and scream across at the Velazquez-inspired Popes who just scream right back at them. The comparison between these two sets of caged creatures is all too obvious. Bacon's are devotes much of its energy to underlining the blood-ties between mankind and the animals. His "Christ" is a bullet-ridden corpse lying dead on a grubby hospital bed. The shuddering centrepiece of Three Studies of Figures on Beds (1972) is a scene of violent buggery. The left hand panel of Triptych May-June 1973, shows a figure sitting slumped on a toilet. In the right hand panel the same figure is vomiting into a sink. The received view about Bacon's art and moments such as these, is that it shows the human condition as it is, not as it wishes to present itself to others, that it penetrates to the human unconsciousness, the violent darkness that is inside each of us. By focusing on the physical, overly masculine face of the human condition Bacon's art presents a distinctly unbalanced view off it. This is its major shortcoming."

Waldemar Januszczak, Behind the brutality of Bacon, The Guardian, Wednesday, May 22, 1985




"These qualities of terror and anxiety that people so often talk about are the last things I’ve actually ever attempted to convey. I have attempted to be as realistic as I possibly can. If you really think about life, about realism, about a lump of meat on your plate, that, in itself, if you think about it, is a very frightening thing. And so, I’ve really been rather curious as to why people find my work ridden with anxiety. It is certainly not how I think about it. I’ve tried to make images that would unlock the valves of feeling on different levels. For me, to be realistic has meant extreme deformations. 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."

Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon: A Night's Journey and a Day, Vogue, London, 15 October, 1971




"To understand the force of Bacon's 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 Bacon's images as just that—castration erupting within our wish to see, within the scopic field. To the extent that pictures are narratives, and it must be remembered that Bacon specifically and repeatedly refuses narrative, they depend on the fascination of the spectator, they act as traps for the gaze. 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 Bacon's work is to claim that he has taken the detachment of the gaze to its limit. The painting 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."

Parveen Adams,  The Violence of PaintThe Emptiness of the Image, Routledge, New York, 1996




"In conversation, the late Clement Greenberg complained that he found Bacon 'too crisp', by which I think he meant that the works  remained too thin and linear, insufficiently realised in solid juicy paint. David Sylvester wrote in 1962 of the way 'the intensity that Bacon achieves in certain passages of a large number of the canvases has not been sustained throughout the whole area of any them'. In the later work there is generally a jarring dislocation  between the figures executed in meaty swirls of oil paint and the crisp, clear, brightly coloured settings which are close to geometric abstract painting. When all such allowances have been made, however, there is a sameness to his work which perhaps resulted from its lack of direct contact with reality. Towards the end there was a clear falling off. But repetitiousness is a common fate of late twentieth-century artists of all varieties — figurative, abstract, conceptual. Late twentieth-century painters do not throw off one masterpiece after another like masters of the seventeenth century. Bacon produced perhaps twenty images that look sure to last. That, by contemporary standards, makes him a very significant figure. He created a genuinely fresh way of seeing human beings. Even so, as he said himself, it takes 75 to 100 years for a reputation to settle down. 'Time is the only great critic.' "

Martin Gayford, The Brutality of Fact; Bacon & Freud, Modern Painters, Autumn, 1996




"To understand the force of Bacon's 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 Bacon's images as just that—castration erupting within our wish to see, within the scopic field. To the extent that pictures are narratives, and it must be remembered that Bacon specifically and repeatedly refuses narrative, they depend on the fascination of the spectator, they act as traps for the gaze. 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 Bacon's work is to claim that he has taken the detachment of the gaze to its limit. The painting 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."

Parveen Adams,  The Violence of PaintThe Emptiness of the Image, Routledge, New York, 1996




"Bacon does convey exhilaration. It’s the kind of thing Nietzsche is on about, which many people I’ve been close to in my life have had a sense of. Wilson Knight, the Shakespeare critic, wrote that the worse the tragedy becomes in Shakespeare’s plays the better the poetry gets. The poetry always rises. It may be a very obvious thing to say. I don’t think it is just a mystique of suffering, rather it involves the Nietzschean view (and maybe this is true of all Greek tragedy too), that despite the horror there is something affirmative at the heart of tragedy. Bacon does affirm in a way that I don’t feel other British artists of his generation do. He is much more explicit and more, in a way, eccentric than Frank Auerbach, for example. I would never describe a Bacon image  of a person as a nude, whereas I think that Frank Auerbach is basically working within the traditional academic genres. In Bacon it’s not just a naked body, it’s an emblem of a human being. Bacon was like a dark sun around whom these other planets revolved–Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews. But the light they took from Bacon was a sort of darkness. I am talking partly about an art that had elements of miserablism in it. Although Bacon is in a sense amoral, there is a certain arduousness that goes with him which easily becomes overbearing and oppressive."

Timothy Hyman, Under Bacon's Black Sun, Art International, Autumn 1989




"An intensely physical man, Bacon always uses gestures to reinforce the meaning he wants to convey. When he talks about seizing and trapping the 'brutality' of life, his hands thrust outwards as if to grasp the image he is trying to describe. Watching him gesticulate and move restlessly across the seat he sat in  realised how this energy becomes translated into paintings which express a writhing and exclamatory vision of humanity. Although many critics have accused him of exaggerating and even sensationalising the violence of existence, Bacon is entirely sincere. He has never lost the capacity to be at once startled and captivated by 'the rawness of life'. The brooding awareness of mortality which haunts all his pictures is matched by an ebullient desire to clutch at the pulse of vitality while it lasts. Ultimately, though, Bacon's work derives much of its distinction from his ability to combine aggression with nicety, headlong abandon with hair's-breadth calculation. He knows the virtue of restraint as well as the exhilaration of onslaught, and the convulsive passages in his art are always countered by areas of extreme understatement. Bacon's paintings are exquisite as well as impetuous. Thriving on an audacious delight in improvisation and accident, but at the same time driven by a stern desire for order and discipline, Bacon manages to reconcile these two seemingly opposed urges in his finest work."

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




"The popular image of Bacon's art is one of unremitting horrors: twentieth-century man, Pope and ordinary guy alike, soundlessly screaming. In reality Bacon's aim has always been to take himself by surprise, to 'unlock the valves of feeling,' as he put it, rather than to maintain a successful line in deliberate nastiness. He has constantly asserted the dignity of man, against the odds, in a futile world. His lack of formal training was a handicap Bacon turned to advantage. Uninhibited by drawing skills or rules of composition, he painted simply for effect. The worrisome code of the Euston Road School, for instance, meant nothing to him. Picasso was more his style, and the spiky vehemence of Picassoesque Sutherland. He became a master of frontal assault and tactical blurring.
The hands are always fudged in a Bacon, either pocketed or left conspicuously vague. Footwear is blunted. Features are pulled together as though stocking-masked. Hence the air of victimisation and menace. Ambition, of course, is not enough. That vital Baconism, strategic inarticulacy, may be dramatically effective, but it's also a persistent cover-up. Smudging the paint at key points, wiping out rummaging fingers or the bridge of the nose, seemingly in the heat of the moment, is a means of fending off banality. Bacon's greatness is little to do with making your flesh creep in a climate of violence. It comes of transforming portraiture, the fundamental art."

William Feaver, Saving Bacon, Observer Review, Sunday 26 May 1985




"His extraordinary convincingness is that he paints us not as we would like to see ourselves, but as organisms distorted in our physiognomy and behaviour by the visual world of machinery in which we are trapped. He paints the business tycoon as we might expect his desk or his telephone to see him; a patient as he might appear from the point of view of the psycho-analyst's couch. And this is how we really are. After visiting a Bacon exhibition, one observes one's fellow passengers in tube-train or lift with opened eyes: and then catches a glimpse of oneself, one of them, reflected in a window or fogged and lipstick-smeared looking-glass. Bacon depicts man the result of man-made inhuman circumstances, therefore self-dehumanized. His figures are the ultimate contemporaries: cut off from the past, or only able to see it through their distorting lenses of the present, incapable of hope for the future. Instantaneous exposure becomes the way of seeing life insulated within the moment, an aesthetic of anti-aestheticism, a Weltanschauung. There is certainly much hatred and disgust in these anti-sentimental , anti-aesthetic, anti-painting pictures. But there is also religious feeling. What is in doubt is whether there is love. Fifty years from now people will be able to decide this more assuredly than we can now. But meanwhile we ought to give this agonizingly honest portrayer of himself and ourselves the benefit of the doubt. For, at the very least, there is a great deal about ourselves and our world that we may learn from his art."

 Stephen Spender, Francis Bacon at Nottingham, The Listener, Volume 65, Issue 1665, Thursday, February 23, 1961




"From certain Fayum portraits, through a lace-collar by Velazquez and a beach by Constable, to an asparagus by Manet, they constitute, it seems to me, Bacon's real lineage. Others have seen the rift and opted for one side or the other: abstract paint or literal reality. What makes Bacon frightening is not his subject-matter but the fact that, in his practice, he shows art and actual living to be "unmixable and inseparable." The Council of Chalcedon, in AD 458, thus defined the nature of Christ: I can think of no more apt definition for Bacon's painting. Indeed, his fascination with the Crucifixion may well be attributed to the fact that Christianity's central mystery provides the pattern for the mystery of painting: reality must allow itself to be put to death by paint in order to be resurrected as image. 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, within each picture. Or rather, in that small section of the picture where the identification is attempted. The rest is frozen in expectancy, waiting for the "chance conjunction" to occur. Tertullian called this period (those glacial three days before the Resurrection), "refrigerium interim."  No artist has given us a grander vision of this ghastly moment of suspension, which is the Christian legacy  to our post- Christian age. The great areas of colour, stilled by nocturnal brilliance, should clash, but do not. They are petrified while the dice are rolling."

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



"The elusiveness of Francis Bacon's paintings to critical analysis are a measure of their success. As much as one is tempted to examine a particular influence on Bacon's work, and the temptation is great since Bacon has been quite forthcoming in acknowledging his sources, it is practically impossible to draw direct and, consequently, revealing parallels. Furthermore, focusing on any single element in one of Bacon's paintings usually undermines the meaning of the work rather than clarify it. In a sense, though, this was Bacon's objective. In one of his last Interviews, Bacon observed:  'Most of the time when one talks about painting, one says nothing interesting. It's always rather superficial. What can one say? Basically, I believe that you simply cannot talk about painting, it just isn't possible'. Yet, Bacon's paintings have been talked about a great deal with varying success, as one might expect.  Part of the problem is that Bacon himself could not refrain from talking about them, fueling an interest in possible links between his work and that of painters like Van Gogh and Degas, or writers such as Aeschylus, Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot. That poets and playwrights are mentioned frequently by Bacon is rather curious since he prefaced the passage cited above by noting: 'Painting is a world of its own, it's self-sufficient'.  In addition, his desire to allow narrative to play only a very minor role in his work seems to preclude any parallels with literature. But bacon stressed his favourite authors too often for them to simply be ignored in the context of his own work... In large part what bacon admired of the writers he read was not what could be appropriated and re-formulated through the language of paint, but rather what could not."

John G. Hatch, Fatum as Theme and Method in the Work of Francis Bacon,  Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 19, No. 37, 1998




"I think Bacon is one of the greatest painters of all time. He's up there with Goya, Soutine and Van Gogh: dirty painters who wrestle with the dark stuff. He's complicated. It's not essentially about formal skill or technique or dexterity. It's about belief. I believe! And the struggle, the sense that you somehow grunt your way though it by sheer will. That's what's inspiring to me, alongside the sheer bravery of confronting the dark side, the shadows, the full force of the human psyche.  If you compare him to Lucien Freud, say, it's obvious that Freud is the more technically accomplished painter. He can read what he sees, and render it. Bacon couldn't do that. If you look at the feet in his paintings, they're bloody awful. He can't do boots. [Laughs] But it's so bloody powerful. His work always veers into the imagination. There's always this raw, dark power, this visceral energy that is compelling. The paint is alive. Great art comes from nowhere. In a way, I think Bacon said 'fuck off' to what went before. He didn't go the traditional route that the great painters went. He didn't have the patience to be like Velasquez or Ingres or whoever. He used to look to these guys, but he just didn't have the patience to be like them and do what they did. He painted from photographs, he stuck bits of corduroy in there, bits of glass, whatever it took to get there. He talked about the brutality of fact. It's incredibly brave to take that on, to face up to the horror and stare it down. Over and over. He pushed himself to the edge every time. They give you the shivers, his best paintings. He looks into the room that no one wants to look in. He looks in the mirror and he sees meat. He shuns tenderness. He wants to sleep on a hard bed. I think he saw the brutality early on and he decided to take it on."

Damien Hirst, 'He's one of the greatest artists of all time', Art, The Observer, Sunday, August 10, 2008




"FORGET the "greatest British painter since Turner", says Daniel Farson. 'Bacon was the greatest world painter of the second half of the twentieth century.' It is the sort of over-the-top statement which means nothing and may eventually damage Bacon's reputation. He was not the greatest world painter of the last forty years. I would say that he was not even the greatest British painter of his times, since I believe his long-time friend Lucian Freud to be that, but in so far as the term means anything, he was a great painter, powerful, as original as anybody can be, and after he found himself, totally uncompromising. What makes writing about his painting so treacherously difficult is the temptation to see it as narrative, to invest every picture with a story and even a moral, whether about homosexuality or 'the human condition'  or existentialism or despair. In an attack on him in an Observer obituary article, Paul Johnson even said his paintings reflected an 'Irish fear of death.' But the truth is that more than most, Bacon paintings are paintings first, last and all the time. One's total response is governed by one's response to the smears of paint, to the curved brush-strokes which create curious concavities in the faces of his sitters and to the inexplicably satisfying  textural effect of the almost dry brush dragging paint across the unsized canvas. OF COURSE Bacon had a bleak and, to use the fashionable phrase, 'disturbing' view of the human condition; but the predicament of his people is conveyed in unforgettably pictorial terms. Solitary or coupling, they are tapped. They are enclosed in some strange box or stark arena. Some of them are evidently screaming. The philosophical extensions are subordinate to what is there in the picture for all to see."

Anthony Cronin, Bacon, the zestful pessimist, Sunday Independent, Sunday May 2, 1993




"The problem with which Francis Bacon faces us in his art is the problem of imagery so strong in its superficial presence and immediate impact that even those who are now familiar with it, and have come to accept it, have needed time and application to see beyond it and so move deeper into the work. Those blessed with less visual, more literary habits of interpretation and more literal a cast of mind can think of nothing, as they can see nothing, more than the apparent violence done to the human figure, the gratuitous, arbitrary distortion, an easy, pitiless contempt for the human condition. What seems to be the message is to them everything. If there were nothing more to it than that, how could we not agree with them in rejecting what merely disgusts us, and distrusting what we cannot see. But of course there is more to it, much more: a mere talent for grotesque invention never made a painter great, and as with all forms of art, it is what the artist does with his image and his imaginative material in format terms, how he makes it, puts it together and disposes it, that is the real test. The question is never one of content nor of form alone, but always of form in relation to content, of what the work is quite as much as of what it might also be in its imaginative reference and suggestion. From this tense and critical relation the work derives all emotional force and imaginative profundity. Bacon has often said that his work is about nothing other than itself. There is no specific message, programme or polemic to it, and to look for one is to miss the point. His effort is directed only to realising each image physically on the canvas, to give it a life of its own, a kind of independence to shift for itself, and in the process to exorcise one of those images which seem to have haunted his vision for so long, to lay the ghost at last, if only for a moment."

William Packer, The haunting vision of Francis Bacon, Financial Times, Tuesday May 28, 1985




"BACON'S recent paintings at the New London Gallery show as clearly as ever that he is projecting an image of death from which all positive life or hope is rigorously excluded. That is the point of his work and its fatal restriction. He is not making a tragic image. Instead, he is playing out a morbid—not tragic—obsession which has meaning within the terms of psychopathology, but can never attain the universality of genuine tragedy, for this needs an alternative ingredient to offset its negation and provide the real catharsis that we find in Mantegna, Rembrandt, and Goya. The horror of absolute corruption, brought almost to the edge of death, is hermetically sealed in Bacon's work and clings on, sick and fearful, in a self-absorbed trance. The painting itself is bold and energetic but undermined by the weakness of expressionist rapportage intent upon registering feeling in terms of paint without any constructive thought to push the paint further. And so the formal quality of his figures and backgrounds are rarely successful, and even then only at an elementary level. The compression chamber, the intangible prison cell, so familiar from literature, has lost its meaning and turns into a sentimental device ... There is also the disagreeable feeling that something repellent is being gilded, prettified, in a chic sense—a chunk of raw, putrefying meat in a smart, bright décor ... Bacon's shortcomings are those of any artist crippled by an excessively self-indulgent obsessive vision. Outside that, out in the world, only a handful of people can truthfully respond, though they can stare through lurid shock. For his work has not made a world with real meaning for any possible society, but only a morbid aspect of what is anti-life, a painful travesty ritual on the razor's edge of death. Trapped there, it is incapable of growth, only an occasional increase in confidence at a fixed level."

Bryan Robertson, Moore and Bacon, The Listener, Volume 70, Issue 1791, Thursday, July 25, 1963




"In ‘Dark Sunlight’ Sylvester reaffirmed his belief that not only were Coldstream and Bacon Britain’s outstanding painters (with Auerbach receiving the most praise of younger British artists), but that the ‘amateur’ approach of Coldstream and Bacon (working for themselves, not their audience) set an example younger artists would do well to follow. It is quite possible that Sylvester’s famous interviews with Francis Bacon, the first of which was made following the artist’s 1962 Tate Gallery retrospective, were in some way inspired by the de Kooning interview. Both artists, in Bacon’s words, trod ‘a kind of tightrope walk between what is called figurative painting and abstraction’, and both were unusually articulate and engaging interviewees. Cohn again seems to have played a crucial role in instigating the first interview with Bacon. She suggested the idea to Sylvester (who doubted that Bacon would agree to take part) and subsequently produced the interview. Sylvester, who was a close associate of Bacon in the early 1950s, had seen little of him since 1958, when ‘his new paintings had seemed so shockingly bad that I felt totally disillusioned about him’. There was also a second reason why Sylvester had stopped seeing Bacon, which was his irritation at Bacon’s dismissive attitude towards American abstract art. During that same period de Kooning replaced Bacon in Sylvester’s pantheon, to the extent that when in 1962 he wrote of ‘the three great human-image-makers of the generation born in the early years of the century’, Sylvester was referring to Giacometti, de Kooning and French artist Jean Dubuffet. One reason why Sylvester doubted that Bacon would consent to being interviewed by him was that he was not sure Bacon would have liked his review of the Tate retrospective. In it Sylvester responded positively to the exhibition, but wondered ‘whether Bacon’s paintings are great art (as de Kooning’s figure-paintings, with which they can most closely be compared, are great art)’."

James Finch, ‘A Wistful Dream of Far-Off Californian Glamour’: David Sylvester and the British View of American Art; Tate Papers, Number 27, Spring 2017




"In many ways, Bacon was the first major British artist to be modern by birth. The modernism of his predecessors, artists like Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, was only skin deep. They were intellectual converts to modernism, who remained bound by the sentimental conventions of English humanism. As a modernist, Bacon knew the value of emphatic contrast. No close-toned browns or pastel hues for him. No post-Impressionist, anglicised approximations. In his great period, which was relatively brief (roughly 1962–76), the most forceful, telling contrast in his paintings is between the bleeding, boneless figures, with their pummelled faces and dislocated limbs, and the bright, clean geometric backgrounds. The colours in these backgrounds are a key to his entire achievement. They are sumptuous, rich, expansive and – in an utterly modern, post-industrial way – arbitrary. By the last decade of his life, and perhaps earlier, he had plainly lost the ability to deepen the game. Art had become for him a game in the worst sense – an activity missing the one quality it needs: conviction. In his 1985 South Bank Show interviews with Bragg, he looks thoroughly exhausted. He was drunk in the final part of the Bragg interviews. As I watched them again on YouTube, it occurred to me that Bacon was not just a great painter of sex and of death and of existential solitude and all those other large themes. He was the 20th century’s great painter of the state of drunkenness. The sensation of drunkenness. The slur and blur, the head-spins, the retching, the wretchedness. And the aftermath, too, with its unexpected delicacy and heightened receptiveness, the “slight remove from fact, which returns me onto the fact more violently” (something he actually said about photography). All this relates, of course, to the existentialist idea of ‘nausea’. But in the hands of philosophers (particularly French philosophers) these things too quickly become abstract. At its best Bacon’s painting is not just visceral – it’s specific, it’s empirical."

Sebastian Smee,  A room with no view - Francis Bacon, The Monthly, November, 2012




"Bacon himself has often suggested that his distortions clear away veils and screens, and reveal his subjects, ‘as they really are’. But before we assent to this, we must first go along with Bacon’s judgement on his fellow human beings. In this sense, his approach is the opposite of Sutherland's.; Bacon would never let the sitter 'compose his own portrait'.  There is only one aspect of human being which he attends to. Manifestly, Bacon does not idealise: but, in a similarly universal way, he denigrates. It really does not matter whose likeness he exploits: their face will emerge as that of ‘a gross and cruel monster’ ‘and nothing else‘. For Bacon, and individual’s face is no more than an injured cypher for his own sense of the irredeemable baseness of man. Bacon’s numerous critical supporters have repeatedly insisted that he is a great ‘realist’ who paints the world as it is. Michel Leiris has recently argued that Bacon ‘cleanses’ art ‘both of its religious halo and its moral dimension’. Bacon himself has said that his paintings can offend, because they deal with ‘facts, or what used to be called truth’. Yet Bacon is indifferent to particular truths concerning the appearance, and character, of his subjects. No one could accuse him of being a respecter of persons: in his view, men and women are raw and naked bags of muscle and gut, capable only of momentary spasmodic activity. ‘Realism’ in art inevitably involves the selective affirmation of values. Whether one accepts Bacon as a ‘realist’ or not will depend upon whether one shares his particular view of humanity. Bacon is an artist of persuasive power and undeniable ability; but he has used his expressive skills to denigrate and to degrade. He presents one aspect of the human condition as necessary and universal truth. Bacon's  work may currently be more highly esteemed that that of Sutherland; but this may merely tell us something about the values  of those who express such a preference. Bacon's skills may justify command our admiration; but his tendentious vision demands a moral response, and I believe, a refusal.

Peter Fuller, Nature and Raw Flesh, Modern Painters; Vol. 1 Issue 1, Spring 1988




"Francis Bacon was an extraordinary and extreme artist and one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. He was also a Right-wing elitist and individualist who approached the problem of creating art in the twentieth century with an honesty and intensity that have not really been matched. Generally speaking, it is probably true to say that most of the Right dismiss Bacon along with other contemporary artists mainly because of his unique treatment of the human form. But in my view his art enunciates a violent assault on the complacency of conventional thinking and perception that should be seen as deeply consonant with the project of the Alt Right. In particular, his extreme interrogation of the human subject in a world after God will be seen to provide a denunciation of the triviality engendered by secularism. Bacon is a figure of enduring importance for two primary reasons. Firstly, he resisted the twentieth century’s urge to erase form, to exult in pure abstraction or conceptualization. The uncanny appearance of his figures has to do with his struggle to render reality in a really primal form, prior to ideological abstraction. Secondly, in his attempt to show the human form in a world without God he did not retreat to a position of hyper-triviality or consumerism. Instead he hacked away at the human form like a butcher trying to find out what it really is that lies beneath the meat. He would not accept a religious answer but perhaps it is significant that in the above quotation he talks of “a whole emanation” coming from a person. He resisted a spiritual or mystical interpretation of this but nevertheless it is significant because it gestures towards a non-material source of whatever it is that we understand to be human. Bacon’s art allows us to glimpse the horror of what it might be that lurks behind the curtain, through the screen or under the skin. If we do not like what we see it is necessary to keep looking deeper and deeper so that the numinous violence of existence becomes apparent. We might then begin to see something of his dark theology of meat."

Christopher Pankhurst, The Dark Theology of Meat, Counter-Currents, June 2016





"Francis Bacon's abstract strategies to represent the surface of the furies’ skin in Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) and the flayed bodies of Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962) can be intercepted by Gilles Deleuze’s treatment of the painter’s oeuvre according to notions of descent (fall) and flesh (meat)—two elements contained in his underused notion of incarnation. Incarnation brings to mind the idea of descent (the spirit coming down) and flesh (the spiritual clothed in skin). Bacon’s paintings illustrate the mystery at the heart of the device of incarnation by hinting at an absence—the cross signaled by the crucifixion of the title is not shown. The lack of certainty on the viewer’s part about what is observed on the canvases adds to the unknown. Incarnation focalizes that which, up until its fleshly manifestation, was not precisely known. It makes, according to words Deleuze used in a different context, “invisible forces visible” (Francis Bacon 49). What is unintelligible is captured, trapped in the skins of representation, trap being part of the etymological chain linked to descent.  What is the link between essences and their incarnation in the fleshly coil? It is through the process of incarnation that the incorporeal passes into the material, the concept becomes real: “Qualities and species incarnate the varieties of actual relation; organic parts incarnate the corresponding singularities” (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition 210). Incarnation is not simply the embodiment of the transcendental or the essential but the revelation of an ontological depth of the surface. It is not simply the spiritual in the skins of the actual but a descent that keeps going farther once the surface has been reached. “One no longer paints ‘on’ but ‘under’ ” (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? 194). Or through, like Fontana’s wounded canvases. This is shown in the representation of skin and flesh in Bacon’s crucifixion triptychs but also in the structural diagram upholding these representations. Here is the downward movement implied by Christ’s incarnation and the underlying materiality shown in the mortification of the flesh."

Jakub Zdebik, Skin Aesthetics as Incarnation: Gilles Deleuze's Diagram of Francis Bacon, English Studies in Canada, ESC, Volume 34, Issue 1, March 2008





"The pope is Bacon himself screaming at the fear and loneliness of being a gay man at a time when homosexuality was still a crime. The pope is the pope and Bacon screaming at the horrors of the world at the end of the war (Auschwitz, Hiroshima). The pope is the pope screaming at the wreckage of his faith in a godless world. The pope is Papa, Bacon's brutal father, who attempted to beat his homosexuality out of him. This obvious Freudian interpretation was put to Bacon directly by the art critic David Sylvester in one of their famous interviews — Bacon simply deflected it.The pope's scream, like the figures at the base of a crucifixion, is Bacon's visceral response to the human condition as a whole — a world of violence and despair, hopelessness and terror, essentially meaningless, in which we are all simply "meat". There is probably truth in all these answers. Artists often choose images precisely because they carry multiple associations. However there is no doubt that the final reading is the one favoured by the art establishment and by Tate Britain. This is because it enables them to assimilate Bacon to Michelangelo, Rembrandt and others, as a producer of "timeless" truths about life and because it dovetails with the notion of an unchanging human nature. The bourgeoisie has a place for art that shows the horribleness of life, so long as they can also claim it shows that nothing can be done about it. For this reason many on the left, including John Berger, have long been suspicious of, even hostile to, Bacon. And it has to be said that much of Bacon's outlook was reactionary: he was a kind of Nietzschean, adhering to a sort of "exhilarated despair", and a positive supporter of social inequality as part of "the texture of life". Nevertheless, I do not believe that the left should reject Bacon's work, as opposed to his views, and I'm pleased that Berger has recently revised his judgment. The horror he so powerfully expressed is in reality a product not of human nature but of alienation, in all its aspects, internal and external, and that can be changed. Moreover those artists such as Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett and Bacon, who look into the abyss, who take on the horror and stare it down, do, through their work, make a form of resistance, a defiance, from which we can benefit and draw hope, whether they did or not."

John Molyneux. Francis Bacon — Tate Britain, Art, Exhibitions, Socialist Review, October 2008






"Presence, presence ... this is the first word that comes to mind in front of one of Bacon's paintings. Could this presence be hysterical? The hysteric is at the same time someone who imposes his or her presence, but also someone for whom things and beings are present, too present, and who attributes to every thing and communicates to every being this excessive presence. There is therefore little difference between the hysteric, the 'hystericized,' and the 'hystericizor.' Bacon explains rather testily that the hysterical smile he painted on the 1953 portrait, on the human head of 1953, and on the 1955 Pope came from a 'model' who was 'very neurotic and almost hysterical.'  But in fact it is the whole painting that is hystericized. Bacon himself hystericizes when, beforehand, he abandons himself completely to the image, abandons his entire head to the camera of a photobooth, or rather, sees himself in a head that belongs to the camera, that has disappeared into the camera. What is this hysterical smile? Where is the abomination or abjection of this smile? Presence or insistence. Interminable presence. The insistence of the smile beyond the face and beneath the face. The insistence of a scream that survives the mouth, the insistence of a body that survives the organism, the insistence of transitory organs that survive the qualified organs. And in this excessive presence, the identity of an already-there and an always-delayed. Everywhere there is a presence acting directly on the nervous system, which makes representation, whether in place or at a distance, impossible. Sartre meant nothing less when he called himself a hysteric, and spoke of Flaubert's hysteria. What kind of hysteria are we speaking of here? Is it the hysteria of Bacon himself, or of the painter, or of the painting itself, or of painting in general? It is true that there are numerous dangers in constructing a clinical aesthetic (which nonetheless has the advantage of not being a psychoanalysis). What we are suggesting, in effect, is that there is a special relation between painting and hysteria. It is very simple. Painting directly attemptstto release the presences beneath representation, beyond representation. The color system itself is a system of direct action on the nervous system. This is not a hysteria of the painter, but a hysteria of painting. With painting, hysteria becomes art. Or rather, with the painter, hysteria becomes painting."

Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation, Continuum: 2003





"John Berger, Marxist. Sometimes I think he is a great critic. Sometimes I think he is slick and untrustworthy and the enemy of the very ideas that he stands for. The real puzzle is defining the relationship between his vices and his virtues. I admire unreservedly the way in which he can approach any aspect of the visual world, whether the behaviour of people in a café, a newspaper photograph or a picture in the National Gallery, and bring them with equal vividness and point into his discussion of art. I admire the way that he invariably approaches art from outside its own self-perpetuating institutions, looking for connections in the broadest sense, and the incomparable moments when he gives focus to his broader arguments with close analysis of pictures. Above all, I envy the energy which comes off his pages as much as I detest the energy with which he projects himself on the small screen. In a recent essay on Francis Bacon in New Society, John Berger had this to say about criticism: a critic isn’t there to define or assess a work of art. ‘The notion of criticism as assessment is an academic one. Properly speaking, criticism can only be concerned with the uses to which a work of art is put’—that is, with the value of the discourse between the work and the public. And he goes on: ‘About the work-for-itself I can say nothing. All that can be said about a work of art within its own terms, it is already saying about itself.’ At a later point he invokes Bacon’s portraits: ‘Study these expressions; read them. Not one is self-reflective. They do not know what has happened to them.’ And the conclusion of the article, as forceful and final as an express pulling into a terminus, is that Bacon’s paintings have no concern with consciousness. ‘What they do is to demonstrate how alienation may provoke a longing for its own absolute form—which is mindlessness.’ The argument linking these sentences is brilliantly worked out. Everything fits. But it seems to be the kind of argument that carries along the traditional country-house detective story, where the solution is decided upon first and then the clues are piled up in front of it. He is not really evaluating the uses to which Bacon’s art is put, nor the discourse between the work and the public, but rather telling the reader what he must notice and what he must think in order to arrive at the correct solution. If this were acknowledged, it wouldn’t matter, but it is not."

Andrew Forge; John Berger by Andrew Forge, Art, The Listener, Thursday February 3, 1972






"Bacon didn’t just paint screams. But Bacon would not be Bacon without the screams. How you feel about the screams is, I think, the essence of how you’ll feel about every Bacon work. I focus here on the critical disparity and unease for one simple reason: It shows the deep distrust of Bacon among those who think and write about art. This distrust, I pose, can be traced back to the scream. Critics tend not to believe in the scream. They think they’re being manipulated and they don’t like it. Nobody likes to be a sucker, critics least of all. The more the critics witness the public’s adoration of Bacon’s work, the more they smell a rat. There is nothing worse, in Arthur Danto’s eyes, than a scream that means nothing. It amounts to the destruction of the moral realm in the name of aesthetics. The key scream painting in Bacon’s oeuvre is probably Study after Velázquez (1950). But Danto, and by extension many other critics, miss a key distinction when they focus on the meaninglessness of the screams. Bacon retreated to the language of pure painting and aestheticism in order to resist the specific meanings often attributed to his works. In fact, Bacon constantly decontextualized his screams in order to cut the causal links and to make the screams more general. He was interested in the form and structure of a scream. He wanted to figure out what makes a scream a scream. Painting the scream onto Pope Innocent X heightens that sense of disjunction. It doesn’t make sense that the Pope is screaming. But that makes the scream all the more pure, all the more screamy in its screaminess.  With all due respect to Edvard Munch, I can’t think of another artist who so perfectly expressed the Platonic purity of the scream, the scream as scream. Something about Bacon’s exploitation of horror arouses an indignation not usually expressed in these other cases. Perhaps we resent that Bacon makes us take pleasure in our more troubling emotions, in our fascination with violence. I don’t know if Peter Schjeldahl “seethes with indignation” because he deplores the amorality of Bacon’s imagery of violence or because he deplores the pleasure he finds himself taking in such amoral imagery of violence. It could be a mixture of both. I always take very seriously the way that teenagers look at Bacon. They see the purity of that scream and they respond to it immediately. They know that it is right, that Bacon got that scream absolutely right because he formalized the subject matter and not because it points to any outside meaning."


Morgan Meis, Say Ahhhhhhhh!, The Smart Set, 5 June, 2009





"OF ALL the people I have meet who are now dead and who I hope were friends, I think of Francis Bacon today more frequently than any other. We were not particularly close, but he was a fixture close to my heart. Past days in Soho when he didn't appear were like arriving at a party before the other guests had arrived. He set light to the days, his presence evaporated gloom at the bleakest of times, and his highly defined sense of the absurd could disperse, for a while, his own doubts as he laughed and the champagne fizzled. 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. Some of Bacon's jokes though, drew a veil over moments of unhappiness and also near-despair. In 1969, we met by chance in New York, when he was staying at the Algonquin with his then companion, George Dyer. Bacon asked me round every morning for breakfast, which consisted of a bottle of Don Perignon, but one day George wasn't to be seen. I asked Bacon where George was and he told me that he was in hospital. He had tried to commit suicide that pervious night by overdosing, and Bacon had found him unconscious. “What did you do?” I asked him. “Phoned the doctor, told him George was still alive and asked him to bring more pills around.”  But when George did eventually die, some years later, I believe that Bacon was more upset than he may ever have been in his life. He had an underbelly alright, but he could be surprisingly cruel as well. One of his best women friends and models, Isabel Rawsthorne, was loved by Bacon in his way, and was frequently lunched at Wheelers. After her husband, Alan, died in 1970, and when Isabel's eyes were going (she was blind at her end), he quite coldly ignored her and became very short if I mentioned her. Yet she was very special.  How can she have offended him? Bacon could also be vitriolic from time to time. Mention of the painter Graham Sutherland, for example, would stir up  the acid, but he was kind, too, and I am not talking through my pocket, into which he often stuffed a £50 note. Anyway, according to Bacon, I was an honourary poof. I think he may have been grateful that I never attempted to talk to him about painting. Bu then you wouldn't talk to Einstein about mathematics, would you?"

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





"It is particularly important in the case of Bacon to establish facts about his career as an artist, as many things which are not facts intrude in his case. Over his long life in the public eye – from 1945 to his death in 1992 – Bacon spoke a great deal of nonsense. Fortunately, one does not have to wrestle with his writing because he was unable to – or chose not to – write anything much except chatty and harmless short letters to his friends. But a decision to write about him forces the writer to consider what Bacon is said to have said. Some of what we are told he said comes down to us in fabricated form. The gospel according to David Sylvester, in the published interviews, is not a transcript of what Bacon said; it is a paraphrase, tidied up for publication by the artist himself after extensive interventions by Sylvester to suit his agenda. The other person whose contribution to the Bacon canon needs close attention is Michel Leiris. When he “translated” Sylvester’s work into French, even Bacon was a bit surprised about the results, finding the translation “possibly better than the original”. Leiris had somehow “managed to give it a much more profound meaning than I had been able to express. It’s extraordinary: I felt myself to be much more intelligent when I read it. I didn’t think I had said such things”. That does not mean that, in searching for facts about the artist and his thoughts, one has to ignore the record of what Bacon allegedly said, but it does mean that anyone writing from the point of view of a historian rather than, say, that of a polemicist, has to be wary of it. One also has to be extremely wary of David Sylvester’s role in Bacon studies. His motivation in promoting Francis Bacon and his work, for a very considerable period, seems to have been a mixture of admiration bordering on worship of the artist, together with an impression of wishing to promote his own career as the keeper, and to some extent creator, of Bacon’s growing reputation. My feeling is that, as artist and disciple interacted in the early days of their relationship, it dawned on the highly intelligent and loquacious artist, who could talk but not write, and whose intellectual rigour was limited by his autodidacticism, that he could use the highly intelligent, but obsequious Sylvester, who could write, to help to create for him a reputation as a serious artistic thinker which would help Bacon’s pictures sell. Bacon was no doubt aware of how other serious contemporary artists were burnishing their reputations as participants in the wider intellectual world around them by using the work of others. The catalogue for Giacometti’s first solo exhibition in New York, in 1948, had, for example, a piece by Sartre."

Adrian Clark, Francis Bacon. Catalogue Raisonné, Review, The British Art Journal, February 2016





"It has always been Francis Bacon’s very considerable reputation—not his work—which has puzzled me. Now, having thought a good deal about his six new paintings at the Hanover Gallery, I think that I begin to see the matter a little more clearly. Three of these paintings are of a Pope (Innocent X from the Velazquez portrait) sitting n his throne in a class case in a black box-like room. (In two of them the features of the Pope’s face “dissolve” into a scream.) The fourth painting is of Mr. Lucian Freud—also in a glass case and box; the fifth is of a palaeolithic man doubled up in front of a grey curtain, and the sixth—smaller than the large ones is of a human doing something to an ape in a zoo.  The really impressive thing about these pictures is that they exist. Nor is that such a stupid statement as it sounds. Many contemporary paintings are fragmentary and inconclusive, so that, like over-heard conversations, their power depends on their context. They barely exist in their own right. These paintings by Bacon do exist in their own right, and indeed have a uniquely convincing presence which their startling, unlikely subject matter somehow makes even more convincing. One watches them, hypnotised as an agnostic might be hypnotised by some ectoplasmic manifestation at a séance—and, in fact, the way that the greyish figures materialise out of the dark, detailed in some places and almost lost in others, is reminiscent of such an affair.  Yet the reason for the power of their presence are, when combined, the very reasons why in my opinion Bacon is a very remarkable but not finally important painter—why he is really outside the main tradition. These paintings are haunting because Bacon is a brilliant stage manager, rather than an original visual artist; and because their emotion is concentratedly and desperately private.  Everything then depends upon the content of the pictures and, since most of them are horrific, on the meaning of horror, disgust and loneliness. Here it is impossible to be dogmatic, but for myself I believe that Bacon’s interpretation of such suffering and disintegration is too egocentric, that he describes horror with connivance that his descriptions lack not only the huge perspective of compassion but even the smaller perspective of indignation. I feel myself that the Pope screams not because of the state of his conscience or the state of the world but, puppet-like, simply because he has been put into Bacon’s glass case. And again, if this is true, it explains the hypnotic power of the paintings. The spectator watches as at the Grand Guignol, fascinated because, in a sense, made cosy—the horror is stimulating because it is remote, because it belongs to a life removed from the normal world.  If Bacon’s paintings began to deal with any of the real tragedy of our time, they would shriek less, they would be less jealous of their horror, and they would never hypnotise us, because we, with all conscience stirred, would be too much involved to afford that luxury."

John Berger, FRANCIS BACON, The Arts & Entertainment, The New Statesman & Nation, January 5, 1952




"It is nonsense to say he was an expressionist painter. Like all the greatest painters, he was a realist. The people he painted, the same over and over again, looked very like Francis Bacons. He looked like a Francis Bacon himself; there was always a shock of recognition when he came into a room. Bacon admired Proust's uncovering of the way childhood affects emotional and aesthetic development. He was given no formal education. He lived in and out of the stables and the story goes that he was expelled from home by his father for having sex with one of the stable lads. Something of the horse never left Francis. He looked like a jockey, with his determined forceful face, strong torso and little tapering legs. He said that at the centre of his being was that he reversed the classic Oedipal roles. He loved his mother and hated his father in the orthodox way, but it was the father for whom he felt a strong physical attraction. Aeschylus' plays were a big force in his life and triggered some of his greatest paintings. Then there was the violence associated with Bacon's images. Francis recollected the civil war, the grown ups talking about the knock on the door and the coming of the gunman. It sounded more interesting to him than ordinary life. His work is alert to menace. Sexually, he was drawn to toughs. He told me he thought of his homosexuality as an affliction but accepted it absolutely: he was a disciplined worker but hated the very idea of resisting an impulse: art, like sex. was impulse. If he was nihilistic, he was nihilistic in a grand and formalised way, like Beckett whom he admired. He thought Yeats and Picasso the century's great artists. He was very free with money and gave wads of it away. His paintings started to make money only when he was well into his 50s. As a young man he had lived off rich protectors; he said he was really a tart. Some he had exploited and stolen from. He was ashamed of the stealing, not the sex. It was one of the reasons he resisted co-operating with any potential biographer, including myself. He was intellectually free of guilt, but not emotionally. He'd always deny fiercely that there was any religious  inspiration behind the paintings of popes and crucifixions which made his name in the late 40s and early 50s. I thought he protested too much. The Catholic tradition in the sense of the mainstream European cultural tradition, attracted him. You get a feel for that in Irish life and art in a way you don't in Britain. I used to own a Bacon. It was stolen. In the early 70s when I started out as a private dealer I had a very great Bacon. It was perfectly acceptable. It wasn't men buggering each other on a bed or anything. It was a closed male figure, Peter Lacy actually, a companion of his who died. It wasn't very expensive. I said to my partner I don't want us to take any profit on this picture. Francis found life sensually pleasant but intellectually brutal. So he found the aesthetic the only reliable pleasure. He painted in order to get at the pleasure. almost as a kind of onanism, but it did not go to waste."

Grey Gowrie, Art and impulse, Sunday Independent, May 3, 1992





"I want to look in more detail at a key scene of exchange between Adorno and the practice, theory and history of modern and contemporary art.  Adorno, however, outflanked our expectations in some remarkable sentences adjacent to one of the nuttiest passages (in both senses: hard and savory, and a bit mad) in Aesthetic Theory where he addresses the very “aim” of art works. Their purpose, he suggests, is the “determination of the indeterminate. Works are purposeful in themselves, [but] without having any positive purpose beyond their own arrangement; their purposefulness, however, is legitimated as the figure of the answer to the enigma” (AT, 124). It is here, near the fulcrum of Adorno’s most enigmatic organization of the “becoming enigma” of art, as a mode of response to the inevitable metaphoricity or “figural” address necessitated by any answer to its question, that he looks across to “recent aesthetic debates, especially in the fine arts,” where “the concept of écriture has become relevant, inspired probably by Klee’s drawings, which approximate scrawled writing”.  This is one of dozens of abbreviated references in Aesthetic Theory and his other writings, some couched in only a phrase or a sentence, in which Adorno alludes to the movements and leading protagonists of modern and contemporary (i. e. mid-twentieth-century) art. The formulaic or symptomatic brevity of these references have generally frustrated the relatively few art historians who have read and responded to them, because in most cases they don’t—and clearly can’t—bear witness to the detail, contradictions or wider implications of the artists or movements to which they refer. We are now in a better position to understand Adorno’s contention which he repeats several times in the “Society” section, including in its concluding phrase, that “the truth content of artworks is the unconscious writing of history bound up with what has until now been repeatedly vanquished” (AT, 192, 259, 261). For language is the code, conduit and means with and within which art has the capacity simultaneously to “say something and in the same breath conceal it.” In this understanding the very enigma of art is, therefore, expressed “from the perspective of language” (AT, 120). While Adorno concurs with Benjamin’s shift away from the nominalistic particularity of language and with his de-emphasis of content and direct reference, he takes issue with aspects of his colleague’s “extremely objectivistic and accordingly universalistic metaphysics of language.” “In art,” Adorno contends, “universals are strongest where art most closely approaches language: that is, when something speaks, that, by speaking, goes beyond the here and now” (AT, 205). Language is, therefore, the one convention—an art-like super-genre of articulation—in which the front between universality and particularity is repeatedly and inexhaustibly broken down. Art “re-writes” the world, then, when it best reflects or resembles the dialectically interdiscursive qualities of writing, when it refuses to surrender to objectivity, specificity or any action mandate but instead questions and re-phrases experiences of and in the world even to the point of muteness and silence."

John C. Welchman, Names, écriture and enigma: Adorno on art as writing,  Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, 2017





"Clement Greenberg was not a devotee of Francis Bacon. The American critic's review of the show The Poetry of Vision held at the National Museum of Dublin in 1967 included a paragraph on two paintings by the artist. Greenberg writes that on first impression the works 'had the impact of big art' but that 'they somehow began to wilt when directly contemplated'. He goes on to identify a 'discrepancy between impact and substance' in Bacon. The choice of language is noteworthy. 'To wilt' means to become limp or flaccid, to deprive stiffness. Although initially seductive, Bacon's works are, on close scrutiny, not hard enough. The paintings are too slight. In an interview with Edward Lucie-Smith, Greenberg chastises Bacon for his cheap, coarse, unfelt application of paint-matter. The artist is flimsy and also ordinary, everyday, common, populist. In reading these criticisms, arch, vicious, it is obvious Bacon gets under Greenberg's skin. The critic admits as much, commentating that he knowingly plays along with the painter's staging of gravitas. He is enticed if not presence. The critic takes pleasure from his ability to see through the painter. Greenberg 'goes for' Bacon because doing so allows him to exercise his superior judgement. He is 'in the know', just playing along with the artist's pretensions of grandeur. This is, at least, how the critic self-consciously frames and understands his response. Clark, however, advises art historians to approach the writings of critics as an analyst would listen to his patient, to be interested in 'the phenomena of obsessive repetition, repeated irrelevance, anger suddenly discharged — the points where the criticism is incomprehensible are the keys to its comprehension'. With this in mind, it seems asinine to take Greenberg's comments at face value. Bacon certainly pricked the critic. Later in the interview with Lucie-Smith, Greenberg returned to the subject of the artist, labelling him a second-rate Gérôme. There is, if not anger, certainly an intense dislike present here. The need to reinforce the artist's frailty is marked. A measure of this disdain can be attributed to national interests. In the interview Greenberg asserts that 'the very best American painters are the best in the world right now'. The repeated desire to 'do down' Bacon can be interpreted as symptomatic of a fear his work may find the kernel of a challenge to America's avant-garde hegemony. The language of the slur, however, suggests that more is at stake. There is a recurrent anxiety that Bacon appears a 'big' artist. Greenberg wishes to demonstrate that, in reality, he is not. The artist's greatness is, in fact, a carefully manufactured illusion. He is adept at passing for what he is not. If the spectator, however, looks closely enough, attentively, the fabric of eminence appears baseless, fades and deliquesces. There is no substance to Bacon. This insubstantiality, as already mentioned, reveals itself through the way the artist's work wilts under the critic's gaze. The 'big' becomes small. The proud painting falls flaccid. Greenberg's comments appear designed to emasculate Bacon. They reveal that it is ultimately issues around masculinity that drive the critic's disgust. The artist's sexuality was common knowledge."

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







"Bacon’s postmodern body is the reverse image of Colville’s. In Bacon, Colville’s hermetic body, where the pain is so intense that identity is cancelled, has been turned inside out: a corps morcelee, mutilated by all the signs of excremental culture as the essence of a society typified by the predatory exploitation of the vulnerable by the powerful, by the bleak exchange of host and parasite as the emblematic sign of parasitical culture, and by all the detritus of liberalism. Where Colville’s body traces an inward pattern in search of the upturned orb of the pineal eye, Bacon’s body is peeled open: organs exteriorized, central nervous system splayed across the field of power relations; and its dominant - the screaming head.  Similarly, Bacon’s artistic vision is about postmodern bodies as X-rayed afterimages of technological society at such a point of excess that it becomes a site of excremental loss. As Foucault suggested in The History of Sexuality, when life is wagered on its technological strategies, human beings are reduced to ventilated remainders: Bacon’s postmodern body is a relentless alternation between the pleasure palace (an object of seduction as in Study of Nude with Figure in Mirror) and the torture-chamber (Three Figures and Portrait). In these paintings, the thermodynamics of sexual voyeurism slide silently into their opposite number: human beings with supine vertebrae twisted like fit specimens for the medical laboratory  If Bacon can express so well the voyeuristic sadism of a world where de Sade’s sexual thermodynamics are the reverse side of Kant’s categorical imperative, and by smearing X-ray images to draw out the hyperreality of our devolution into servomechanisms of science as the language of power in a processed world, this is because Bacon is one artist who expresses in haunting images what Nietzsche meant by “winter thoughts.” Meditating on the “body as a bridge suspended over the abyss,” Nietzsche might have been writing in advance on Bacon’s grisly world of the body peeled open when he reflected: That you have despaired there is much to honour in that. That you have despised that makes me hope, for the great despisers are the great reverers. For you have not learned how to submit, you have not learned the petty prudences.’ That is exactly the art of Francis Bacon and Alex Colville: they have not learned the “petty prudences.” Allergic to self-deception, and working aesthetically to probe the hypermodern condition, their artistic productions are a reflection from another “wintry” time: the end of the twentieth century as a time of cluster suicides, cultural dyslexia and forms of schizophrenia, as the postmodern mind runs down to random disorganization and burnout, where hermetic bodies and schizoid egos become panic sites at the fin-de-millenium. Colville’s imploding self and Bacon’s exploding bodies are violent edges of resistance and excess; cuts, existing midway between the ecstasy of catastrophe and the decay of the simulacrum, as indifferent poles of ultramodernism. In their artistic visions, Baudrillard’s lament about postmodern reality that suddenly dissolves into a “real which [is] more than real” has been confirmed, and then exceeded."

Arthur Kroker, Panic Value: Bacon, Colville, Baudrillard and the Aesthetics of Deprivation; Life After Postmodernism, Ctheory Books; Palgrave Macmillan: 1987








"Dissonance is the technical term for the reception through art of what aesthetics as well as naïveté calls ugly. Whatever it may be, the ugly must constitute, or be able to constitute, an element of art; a work by the Hegelian Karl Rosenkranz bears the title The Aesthetics of the Ugly. Archaic art and then traditional art, especially since the fauns and sileni of Hellenism, abound in the portrayal of subjects that were considered ugly. In modern art the weight of this element increased to such a degree that a new quality emerged. According to traditional aesthetics, the ugly is that element that opposes the work's ruling law of form; it is integrated by that formal law and thereby confirms it, along with the power of subjective freedom in the artwork vis-a-vis the subject matter. This subject matter would indeed become beautiful in a higher sense through its function in the pictorial composition, for instance, or by its participation in the production of a dynamic equilibrium; for, according to a Hegelian topos, beauty is the result not of a simple equilibrium per se, but rather of the tension that results. Harmony that, as a mere result, denies the tensions that have entered into it, becomes something disturbing, false, and effectively dissonant. The harmonistic view of the ugly was voided in modern art, and something qualitatively new emerged. The anatomical horror in Rimbaud and Benn, the physically revolting and repellent in Beckett, the scatological traits of many contemporary dramas, have nothing in common with the rustic uncouthness of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Anal pleasure, and the pride of art at facilely being able to integrate it, abdicate; powerlessly the law of form capitulates to ugliness. That is how completely dynamic the category of the ugly is, and necessarily its counter image, the category of the beautiful, is no less so. What appears ugly is in the first place what is historically older, what art rejected on its path toward autonomy, and what is therefore mediated in itself. The concept of the ugly may well have originated in the separation of art from its archaic phase: It marks the permanent return of the archaic, intertwined with the dialectic of enlightenment in which art participates. Archaic ugliness, the cannibalistically threatening cult masks and grimaces, was the substantive imitation of fear, which it disseminated around itself in expiation. As mythical fear diminished with the awakening of subjectivity, the traits of this fear fell subject to the taboo whose organon they were; they first became ugly vis-a.-vis the idea of reconciliation, which comes into the world with the subject and his nascent freedom. But the old images of terror persist in history, which has yet to redeem the promise of freedom, and in which the subject-as the agent of unfreedom-perpetuates the mythical spell, against which he rebels and to which he is subordinate. Nietzsche's dictum that all good things were once dreadful things, like Schellings' s insight into the terror of the beginning, may well have had their origins in the experience of art. The overthrown and recurrent content [Inhalt] is sublimated in imagination and form. Beauty is not the platonically pure beginning but rather something that originated in the renunciation of what was once feared, which only as a result of this renunciation retrospectively, so to speak, according to its own telos - became the ugly."


Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, The Athlone Press London: 1997








The photograph of Francis Bacon smiling taken by Daniel Farson is the real Francis Bacon of the paintings absolutely antithetical to all those infinitely incited-inserted inanities of 'the human condition' clichés cited endlessly-eternally in art books, exhibition reviews and auction catalogues: 'amoral', 'anxiety', 'brutal', 'cruel', 'despair', 'dreadful', 'disgusting', 'evil', 'existential', 'fear', 'horror', 'isolation', 'loneliness', 'melodramatic',  'menacing', 'nauseating', 'nightmarish', 'squalid', 'violence', 'ugly'. Suffice to say, none of which appear-occur actually in the paintings of Francis Bacon whose melancholy mood is moored more so in the 18th century rather than the 20th century as come acute critics have correctly (though unfashionably) observed. Bacon is far closer to Fragonard than to de Kooning. Bacon's paintings are about one thing only - that is one being only - that being paint - the beings of paint and the paint of beings. Bacon's painting is about paint. Bacon's painting is about the being of paint. Bacon's paintings are about the paint condition and not 'the human condition' (which of course, is an ahistorical misnomer as the Freudian-Foucauldian Mark Cousins acutely observed). The ephemeral momentary 'human' is an arbitrary-accidental invention of recent times and ready for extinction in good time all in good time, all in bad time. Bacon painted premonition paintings as attuning and attending to the end of the human without condition. What is so refreshing about Bacon's paintings is a total lack of this nebulous 'human condition' but instead much more of a 'paint condition' where animals appear as barely human for what we take for 'the human' in Bacon is merely the mimetic of the animal condition in human disguise barely hiding barely masking its animated animal animosity. Yet again we read in a recent Christie's 'catalogue lot notes' that meaningless phrase of 'the human condition' when they are auctioning off Bacon at the art meat market.

Bacon made it emphatically (empirically) clear that  he isolated the figure to avoid narrative and yet his solitary figure is automatically assumed to be isolated in loneliness where that one being is thus 'interpreted' as being in solitary confinement as being-all-alone-in-the-world: to be solitary is not necessarily to be alone for solitariness is actually about being at one with the world: and then what about the loneliness of the crowd where the They are all not-there-together-all-alone: it is 'in' the crowd where we are truly alone and lonely: we are they lost to ourselves. Then we come to the Bacon scream which is again automatically interpreted through 'commonsense' idiocy as signifying pain: what about the scream of pleasure? As a whole when writing on Bacon art critics uncritically resort to retarded 'commonsense cliché' (mimetic-misinterpretations) of Bacon's sultry subterranean-subjects.

John Berger and Peter Fuller had a leftist-marxist 'moralising' (mis)reading of Bacon that was strikingly (uncannily) akin to rightist-conservative 'moralising' (mis)readings of Bacon by Brian Sewell and Bernard Levin; all four having a surprisingly (and disturbingly) 'commonsense' ('literal') reading of Bacon. A conservative 'moralising' humanism is revealed in the delinquent diatribes on Bacon by Berger, Fuller, Sewell and Levin.

Reading the paintings of Francis Bacon 'literally' and 'descriptively' is simply stupid - it is idiotic, inane, insane; indeed to read any paintings at all is absolutely absurd because paint per se as a thing in itself (as being-in-itself0 cannot be 'read' intellectually only 'instinctively' through the body (through 'the nervous system' as Francis Bacon says). Paint is being without meaning: to give paint meaning is not to understand painting. The body does not even read the paint but rather remembers the primordial paint as an originary presencing of the body as an nacient presentation of the body and not as a representation of the body (which is illustration). Bacon's primordial-paint as non-illustrational,  non-intellectual and anti-intellectual is necessarily antithetical to the 'intellectual' art critic who makes-a-living through 'making meaning' where no meaning can ever be made of paint-brut.

It is safe to say (as well as dangerous to say) that Francis Bacon is a pleasant painter of sublime sensations and by far the most misunderstood painter of all time as being misunderstood as a painter of 'horror' and 'violence' as endlessly echoed through tired second-hand sensationalist stock of crass clichés ad infinitum. Yet perplexingly paradoxically, these-those Baconian schlock-horror curatory-clichés come from both celebrators of Bacon and detractors of Bacon alike. There is no 'horror' in Bacon's imagery, there is no 'violence' in Bacons imagery, there is no 'anxiety' in Bacon's imagery, there is no 'isolation' in Bacon's imagery. There is solitude. There is serenity. There is violence in Renoir. There is violence in Matisse. But 'they' (white-privileged bourgeois-critics) cannot conceive of 'it' because 'it' presents their bourgeois (class) violence: Renoir and Matisse paint the veiled violence of high-bourgeois white-privilege. Bacon and Lynch the white privileged portraying white-aliens where 'people of colour' are always out of shot: Bacon and Lynch are not interested in portraying 'animals of colour' but only white aliens. There is no 'mortality' in the self-portraits of Francis Bacon but only an eternal-youth and whilst despite admiring Rembrandt's evolving-ageing self-portraits we see no 'empirical' evidence of the aging process in the serial self-portraits because Bacon is the painter of the ontological face not the biological face and so all the self-portraits of Bacon are as ageless and timeless as the heads, faces and mediations of Jawlensky where there is no evidence of passing time. Bacon exuded eternal-emanations of such immortal-immediacy, of such intense-infinity, of such tense-timelessness, that is became impossible to imagine Bacon being dead, of Bacon being mortal juts as for Bacon death became an impossibility despite, or even, maybe, because Bacon used to think about death everyday whilst knowing that there was nothing to think about: one cannot think death.

As a painter of pleasant pictures, Bacon is a pleasant painter of pristine paint as please as well smell so sweetly in the voluptuous-vivacious paint of Boucher, of Fragonard, of Sargent, of Corinth. As a portraitist, Bacon is primarily a painter of the 18th century whose Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne (1966) hangs uncannily well with the The Shrimp Girl by William Hogarth and here Hogarth and Bacon are 'contemporaries'. Bacon is also a 'contemporary' of Alexej von Jawlensky whose the Heads and Faces and Meditations are akin with works such as Three Studies for a Portrait (1976) when Bacon painted his serene and sedate spirit-scented pristine perfumed-portraits where we witness the soul of the subject. In the 1970s Bacon painted multiple heads, faces, meditations, that are ontologically speaking 'of spirit' where what is painted is mind not meat, where what is painted is spirit not flesh.

It makes no aesthetic sense, no logical sense, no ontological sense; even no psychological sense, to exhibit Bacon with Giacometti as they are poles apart operating in different worlds orbiting around different planets so utterly alien are they to each other having nothing in common at all and yet because of all this nonsense about 'the human condition' Bacon is exhibited with Giacometti and Bacon is compared to Beckett. Even though Bacon admired the drawings of Giacometti they still remain at the level of inane illustration and the spindly sculptures of Giacometti are all so embarrassingly bad one wonders why they still sell so well: Giacometti was not a sculptor because his hands could not let the clay come to be itself (ontologically). Yet it does make perfect aesthetic sense to exhibit Bacon juxtaposed with Jawlensky since they are uncannily close and are 'at home' together in their meandering-musing-murmuring-moodings. The faces-heads-portraits of Bacon and Jawlensky (and, primarily, Picasso) infinitely imbue intense-immediacy permeating profound primordial-presences portraying pulsating personas.

The Primordial Abasthetic 'Art Brut' of Degas, Picasso, Jawlensky, Nolde, Soutine and Bacon immediately remind you that you are only human whilst also being all animal and nonly human far from being human after all and all at once and so it is not an either/or attitude that these abartworks announce. For Degas, Picasso, Jawlensky, Nolde, Soutine and Bacon 'the human' has had its day and is extinct whilst we go on imagining being human being mimetically 'interpellated' into acting human which is what being human was after all: an act as acting human which is an art (work). Artworks call for you to 'extinct' yourselves for Artworks mirror your eternal-extinction as Artworks remind you of your own Immortality as well as of your own Mortality depending upon your understanding of the eternal-extinctual enigmatic-economies of Artworks that live-for-ever by living-for-never. Uncannily akin to the 'human-being', the 'art-work' is 'a loner' and 'a sociopath' having no 'empathy' with other 'art-works' since 'art-works' have an 'anti-social personality-disorder' displaying addictive and aggressive behaviour with a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of others showing no remorse for the deep-hurt that they inflict totally disregarding social-norms and lawful-behaviour with their self-absorbed insular-narcissism and pathological-lying.    





                                                                                                   Portrait of Isabel Rawthorne (1966) Francis Bacon                                                   The Shrimp Girl (1843) William Hogarth




John Gruen understands Bacon, David Plante misunderstands Bacon, Sebastian Smee understands Bacon; Jerry Saltz misunderstands Bacon, Pierre Schneider understands Bacon; Gilles Deleuze misunderstands Bacon, Harold Pinter understands Bacon; Arthur Danto misunderstands Bacon, Michael Peppiatt understands Bacon; Edward Lucie-Smith misunderstands Bacon, Jonathan Meades understands Bacon; Peter Fuller misunderstands Bacon, Donald Kuspit understands Bacon; John Berger misunderstands Bacon, Grey Gowrie understands Bacon; Ernst van Alphen misunderstands Bacon, Robert Hughes understands Bacon; John Richardson misunderstands Bacon, Andrew Graham-Dixon understands Bacon; David Sylvester misunderstands Bacon, Andrew Brighton understands Bacon; Nigel Gosling misunderstands Bacon, Richard Dorment understands Bacon; Brian Sewell misunderstands Bacon, Richard Cork understands Bacon; John Maybury misunderstands Bacon, David Lynch understands Bacon; Stephen Spender misunderstands Bacon, Martin Harrison understands Bacon; Peter Schjeldahl misunderstands Bacon, Andrew Forge understands Bacon; Paul Overy misunderstands Bacon, Nicholas Chare understands Bacon; Jed Perl misunderstands Bacon, Hugh Davies understands Bacon, Waldemar Januszczak misunderstands Bacon, Daniel Farson understands Bacon; Jonathan Jones misunderstands Bacon, William Feaver understands Bacon; Paul Johnson misunderstands Bacon, John McEwen understands, Clement Greenberg misunderstands Bacon, Martin Gayford understands Bacon, Bernard Levin misunderstands Bacon, Damien Hirst understands Bacon, R. B. Kitaj misunderstands Bacon, David Piper understands Bacon.

Understanding Bacon is not Knowing Bacon. Knowing Bacon is not Understanding Bacon. Yet Peppiatt both knew Bacon as well as understood Bacon. But Sylvester knew Bacon but did not understand Bacon. But understanding Bacon is not intellectual understanding but instinctual sensationing through visceral vibration as directly experienced through the frisson-freeze 'art-brute' paint-for-itself-in-itself-as-itself as it were as it was as it is.

Bacon paints. Critics write. Bacon paints out of instinct. Critics write out of intellect. A critic is intellectual. The intellectual is necessarily antithetical to the instinctual. The intellectual is 'cultivated' and 'civilized' whilst the 'instinctual' is 'brutal' and 'primordial'. The intellectual is 'cultured'. The instinctual is 'uncultured' (and uncouth). The critic epitomises the 'intellectual' who finds the 'instinctual' to be abhorrent as an arch-enemy 'cultural'.

Bacon was all 'about' appearances of presentation; presenting particular personages to particular people performing primarily to please: Bacon was the performance artist par excellence. Bacon was not at all bothered about being understood. Art is not bothered about being understood. Art is to be understood as to be misunderstood. Art demands misunderstanding: do you understand? Art does not demand understanding. Why would art want to be understood anyway? What is there to understand? But understanding Bacon is not the same as understanding art. The economy of art operate outside of it 'being understood', of the understood; that is why it is art to begin with, to end with. Art understands that you cannot understand Art. Privately the intellectual despises and detests Art knowing Art refuses 'intellectual understanding' knowing that the intellectual has no understanding of Art.

Misunderstanding Bacon and Understanding Bacon both result in there being nothing that can be said about Bacon because words are not paint as words cannot speak ('as') paint just as paint cannot speak ('in') words. Paradoxically, perhaps even perversely, Bacon spoke extremely eloquently about the absolutely impossibility of being able to talk about painting or even especially writing about despite it being the (paid) 'job' of art critics to write 'about' artworks what is written is always absurd: always. Necessarily then: Art is instinctively initiated as an instead stead of writing as an instead of talking. Art takes place then where there is no talking no need for talking then. Art takes place then where there is no writing then no need for writing then. Art is the refusal to talk. Art is the refusal to write. There is no art talking. There is no art writing. Necessarily then: No art historying.

The language of the word is not the language of the paint; the word illustrates; paint is antithetical to illustration; an image is not a word. There are no words for paint. Painting cannot paint words. Painting has no words and needs no words. Words cannot paint images. Words fill in for the mind that is wordless like the paint is wordless for mind and paint as the wordless ones are one with music and paint are one but word and mind are never one for mind comes before and after the word and paint preceded the deeded deed of the worded word. Word is lack. Mind is not lack. Paint is not lack. Word always lacks which is why we lack words for Paint. Which is why we lack words for paintings. We know we cannot talk about painting. We know we cannot speak about painting. We know we cannot write about painting. Yet we still delusionary do it knowing very well by now that we are still unable to do it is an absolutely impossible task an endeavour forever. The Aesthetic Theory of Theodor W. Adorno is testimony to the impossibility of 'art writing' and the impossibility of 'art theory' and the impossibility of 'art history'. As we all know by now, art critics have no instinct for art which is why art critics have an intellect for art failing to fathom that are has no intellect only an instinct since art is an instincting not intellectualing. Art has no intelligence and intelligent people are not artists since intelligence does not make an artist but intelligence does make an art critic for David Sylvester was intelligent but had no instinct for art. David Sylvester knew Francis Bacon probably better than anyone else but David Sylvester never understood the art of Francis Bacon: the knowing negated the understanding. Understanding is not knowing. The art critic knows about art but never understands art. Yet this knowing about art is necessarily knowing nothing about art for there is nothing to know about art. Art is the always already not known. Art is the not known. What is unknown is always art. The allure of art is in its infinite unknownness.

Understanding Art is Knowing that You know Nothing at all about Art for Art is the Not Known of the Nothing Known and to know-nothing about Art is our attaining absolute-non-knowledge which is the Aim of all Art. To Know is to Illustrate so those that are illustrators are not artists and the vast majority of portraitists are illustrators and not painters for to illustrate is to-know-how-to-do-it which is not doing Art. Only when I do not know how to do it do I do Art. The absolute-jouissance attained in doing-art is an attaining of an absolute-non-knowledge knowing-nothing being-no-where-thinking-nothing as that is the art of doing Art in an abject-sublime trance-state of our knowing-nothing-being-no-where-thinking-nothing: Only then does Art come into Being and Portraiture can only be achieved outside knowledge that is outside thinking that is outside the knowing-thinking of intellectual-illustration.

To Understand Art is Knowing that I know nothing of Art that I know nothing about Art that I have no knowledge of Art for Art is the articulation of the no-knowledge thus all I can say is: I do not know Art but I know what Art moves me. I cannot ask why Art moves me or does not move me for there is no knowledge of Art for we have no knowledge of Art which is our only authentic understanding of Art as Art can only be understood non-intellectually for I know very well I have no concept of Art just as I have no concept of Being just as I have no concepts of Time because Art, Being and Time can only ever be sensationed through the primordial-instinct of the nervous-system.

If narrative is essentially and usually the voice of authority as the voice of the father then this is a reason why Bacon refused narrative refusing the voice of the father who is after all the voice of the art critic as the authority on art which Bacon repeatedly refuses saying nothing having nothing to say to the father who is the art critic acting as a father figure who Bacon does not obey thus for Bacon the art critic is his anti-intellectual father whose voice will not be obeyed and whose authority will not be respected who gets Bacon beaten up by the stable boys aka art critics but Bacon enjoyed taking a thrashing egging them on to do him in to polish him off to finish him off for good.





                                                Meeting Francis Bacon






 It was on Old Compton Street in 1979 when I saw first Bacon in the flesh when waking with my partner Clive Errington-Watson where we saw Bacon slowly strolling along talking to Brett Whitely, distinctive my his morphic mop of springy straw; I remember my heart pounding and being stunned, numbed, excited yet nervous: we walked on, turned around to look again, then walked on. Yet I wanted to go back to talk so in awe was I of Bacon.  

The photograph of Francis Bacon holding his head with elbow supporting was how I always remembered him at Reese Mews coupled with the photograph of Francis Bacon smiling taken by Daniel Farson which is exactly how  was how looked when he greeted me when I first met him in the summer of 1982 in the middle of the road on Archer Street as he was coming out of Charlie Chester's Casino holding a thick wad of crisp £50 notes in a plastic envelope. I was on my way to Cheapo Cheapo records to sell some opera box sets when I happened to see Bacon coming out of the casino and I simply started to speak to him saying how my work was influenced by his and he invited me to go to eat at a nearby Italian restaurant as it was approaching 12.00 midday and when we arrived I remember circling sharks dressed as waiters eagerly greeting him as we took a table. Francis wanted to see what I was selling one of which was Kirsten Flagstad singing Wagner. After we had eaten and spoken about music and art. I distinctly remember when we were walking down Winnett Street Bacon's mood suddenly switching to dread with a frssion of fear coming over him fear as he softly stated that one of the Kray twins was due out on parole who had accused him of taking his boyfriend away. We went to Valerie Patisserie where Bacon ordered me a chocolate gateaux and we sat on a small table near the entrance and spoke about Foucault and Nietzsche and I remember mentioning Derrida to Bacon who said he had never read him which rather perplexed me since Francis knew Leiris so well. As we departed Bacon gave me his telephone number and invited me to see his work in progress at Reese Mews the following Saturday: I left feeling exhilarated, intoxicated, mesmerised: spellbound whilst also apprehensive.

It was an intensely hot July morning when I arrived outside 7 Reese Mews and shouted up to an open hatch: I was warned before hand that there was no bell to ring and to shout up. On opening the door Bacon asked me to 'hang on' to the ropes leading up the steep stair case that seemed and eternal climb with the sensation of being of an ancient wooden ship. Inside we sat down and Bacon offered me Vodka which I drank too much of and became rather opinionatedly pompous. It was here where Bacon X-rayed me with an intense interestedness-disinterestedness had me mesmerised and magnetised almost hypnotised as I had never ever met anyone who had such a powerful presence. After we spoke for some time and I drank more and more the drink made me rather aloof, assertive and arrogant and I distinctly remember saying something so stupid and inane to Bacon: "My business is my pleasure and my pleasure is my business." Then  I remember Bacon saying: "We manure the earth" and "they breeding like flies in Africa" and Bacon being very critical of Lucian Freud's drawings with "all those details". Bacon really hated Freud's obsession with "putting in all the detail".  Bacon appeared proud and pleased when showing me his freshly painted Study for the Human Body from a Drawing by Ingres which I almost knocked of of the easel making Bacon to be rather annoyed added to my rather abrupt criticism of the Leterset on the lower part of the picture saying it should be removed with Bacon replying that it "added anchorage and weight to the image".





                                                                                                                                                                   Reese Mews Studio: Velázquez among the detritus




On first seeing (and smelling afresh) Study for the Human Body from a Drawing by Ingres I was overwhelmed by its pulsating red-hot orangenesses which no reproduction to this day can capture totally unable to reproduce its voluptuous-vivacious frissoning-freshness. No painting by Francis Bacon has ever been recorded by camera because such painterly paints refuses photography: Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez, Van Gogh, Corinth, Soutine, Jawlensky, Nolde, Sargent, Auerback, Bacon cannot be photographed and reproduced in colour because the ontology of paint cannot be represented by photography just as the studio of Francis Bacon cannot be photographed in colour as Perry Ogden testifies to. However, non-paintings by non-painters such as Saville, Uglow, Dali, Murakami and Hockney can easily be photographed and hyper-realist non-painters like Bernardi, Elliott, Lye, Mills, Ortiz, Thielker merely meticulously trace photographs devoid of ontological paint. Saville, Uglow and Dali always photograph so extremely well simply because they share the identical non-ontological economy of the photograph: dead devoid of dasein. Saville, Uglow, Hockney and Dali are not painters per se, as such, since the paint applied is too furtive and coy and controlled so not allowed to come into being into its own as being-paint-in-itself-for-itself-as-itself (as it were, as it was, as it is, as such, as stuff being paint). And slavishly Saville always remains at the retarded-reactionary level of illustration because the eyes, the nose, the mouth and the ears are always illustrated by being 'drawn in' and not painted out. Sadly Saville has never learnt from Rembrandt, Titian, Fragnoard, Sargent, Corinth, Van Gogh, Soutine, or Bacon being content and confined to painting-by-numbers unable to do the eyes, do the nose, do the mouth with non-rational arbitrary-marks which we know can make the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the ears much more poignantly real. To repeat Bacon: the more artificial you make it, then the more chance you have of it looking real.





                                                                                                                                                                  Study of the Human Body from a Drawing by Ingres, 1982




Perry Ogdon's clinical-sterile manicured-polished spontaneously-staged photographs of Francis Bacon's studio are absolutely alien and antithetical to the actual dull and dank dasein of the sepia stained studio that my memory recalls for Ogdon's shots were so shiny, so glossy; too posed, too pristine, too polished; above all, too sharp and too colourful: Bacon's studio is not sharply in focus like these photographs but rather blurred and hazy and Bacon's studio is not in 'full colour' apart from this particular painting (Study of the Human Body after Ingres) which was the Sun sitting smiling there. I felt  deeply honoured to be one of the first people to see this pulsating painting that had such an immediacy and intensity in its freshly painted state. I also remember looking into the fridge and seeing just one egg and near by seeing a row of identical suits lined up. I remember a pair of Dr. Marten boots by an unmade bed and a Billy Holiday record on the floor next to one of those portable record players. I was awfully drunk when leaving and curtly asked Bacon for some money and he gave me £40. In hindsight I could understand why he did not want to see me again for when I telephoned him from East Boldre, in the New Forest, I hear no voice just silence. It as that moment I knew I had been 'excommunicated' from the Bacon Disorder and I could not contact Bacon again. Also when Bacon left me in the studio for a few moments I took a tube of vermilion oil paint (simply because it was so expensive and I was using it at that time). Maybe Bacon knew I had taken that tube of pricey oil paint he had set aside? I think it was a constellation of colliding of conceits and contentions between us that cut-off the connection: I wondered what had happened to the colour slide transparencies of my drawings and paintings that were at one time in his studio and also pondered if Bacon had ever mentioned our meetings in his diary. In hindsight I realised I had touched a nerve when brazenly telling Bacon that his recent work was becoming far too illustrational (and yet if John Edwards had said what I had said to Bacon and Bacon had listened then we would not have had so many of those illustrational images spared the slashing) That some slashed canvases are now preserved is perverse and  utterly antithetical to that will-to-annihilation attitude of Bacon who wanted himself to be thrown out with the rubbish once dead.

I often read and re-read this particular quote from the Sylvester interview where Bacon said: "I've always thought of friendship as where two people tear each other apart - that way you learn something from each other." And taking Bacon quite literally at his word, I criticised his 1970s return to illustration saying that his best work was between 1962 and 1968 (which it indisputably is of course is - yet Sylvester situates the 50s and 70s as being Bacon's best). In hindsight, I realised I must have come across to Bacon as rather righteous and arrogant; I naively thought then that Bacon wanted direct criticism (as he stated to Sylvester). I remember saying to Bacon that his portraits were becoming too illustrational and he should return to the way he painted with arbitrary non-illustrational marks of the 1950s to 1967 when he painted his last (and finest) ever non-illustrational portrait Study for Head of Lucian Freud. and this masterpiece was the very last portrait that Bacon had painted.   

Bacon also stated to Sylvester: "I've always hoped to find another painter I could really talk to - somebody whose qualities and sensibility I'd really believe in - who really tore my things to bits and whose judgment I could actually believe in. I think it would be marvellous to have somebody who would say to you, Do this, do that, don't do this, don't do that! and give you the reasons. I think it would be very helpful.I long for people to tell me what to do, to tell me where I go wrong." But Bacon was being utterly disingenuous here because he did not take kindly to my overtly critical evaluations of his recent work and looked rather awkward and offish it when I told him his manipulation of paint was becoming thin, effete and illustrative. I distinctly recall asking Bacon why he went back to illustration in his recent portraits and why he no longer used those arbitrary non-illustrational brush marks. It may have been my curt criticisms that put Bacon off seeing me ever again. Long before meeting Bacon, I remember being extremely jealous of John Edwards in my late teens and not understanding what Bacon saw in him. Eddie Gray once invited me to meet Edwards at The French House on Bastille Day but I opted out.




                                                                                                                                              The Devils (1971) with Madeleine (Gemma Jones) walking into the wilderness




However, I had to contact Bacon again because I wanted him to come to a group exhibition of auctioned art works hosted by Fischer Fine Art in St James in aid of London Contemporary Dance Theatre: Here I exhibited some of my charcoal self-portraits and a series of charcoal drawing portraits of punk-rockers and large oil-painting, The Goat Woman, 1981, was exhibited in the main gallery window of which I was rather proud as was my mother. I asked Bacon to attend but there was no sign of him and so I remember running from St James to Soho desperately looking for Bacon but to no avail though the Evening Standard Londoner's Diary reported: "The fact that the notoriously elusive Bacon is expected to put in an appearance at the auction is surely an indication of his enthusiasm for his young acolyte's work." However, the Evening Standard (Bringing in the Bacon, November, 19, 1982) misquoted me stating that I had met Bacon through my father, Ken Russell. Russell had never met Bacon but admired the Screaming Popes series and Bacon has seen The Devils with Eddie Gray at The Biograph Cinema in Victoria (opened in 1909, the date of Bacon's birth). Bacon said he liked the tall thin poles with cart wheels with lice infected corpses at the closing scene with Madeleine (Gemma Jones) wandering into the wilderness.

At the time I met Bacon in 1982, my father was preparing to produce Richard Strauss's Salome under the conductor, Horst Stein in Geneva for performances in 1983, and he was looking for a set designer and I remember talking to Bacon about the possibility of him doing the sets but sadly nothing ever came of it as it could have been mesmerising since both Bacon and Russell shared an obsession with the sensation of the image directly assaulting and nailing the nervous-system of the audience. It was delightful seeing Bacon and Russell discussing the images from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin in the BBC 2 documentary, 'Art That Shook The World'. There are images in Russell's Altered States (1980) which are akin to Bacon's shape-shifting morphing-mutations. The critic Douglas Slater stated in Films Illustrated (September, 1981) regarding Russell's Altered States (1980): "Russell's serious interest in the movie is for the images and sounds that act upon the audience away from words and rational thought." This could easily be Slater writing on Bacon.

I had first come across the name Francis Bacon on the 30th of November, 1975, when I happened to be watching Arena on London Weekend Television: it was from then on that my obsession with Bacon began. It was in 1977 when I started to regularly visit Marlborough Fine Art in Albemarle Street becoming friendly with John Longstaff and Miss Valerie Beston and frequently talking with them anout Bacon yet I found the other directors to be offish and stuck-up: snide, slippery and snobby who in turn detested John Longstaff and were very rude and condescending toward him in front of me. I got to know Miss Valerie Beston who used to sneak me into private viewing rooms to look at the latest Bacons as well as a stunning Van Gogh of blossom tat was hanging in one of the director's offices. I remember Miss Beston scurrying about and bring very keen always to show the new Bacons as they came in. In 1978 I met Graham Sutherland at the Marlborough who looked like a civil servant standing like a still next to Studies from the Human Body (1975) that I found far too etiolated and dreadfully disappointing drained of dasein. Between 1979 and 1982 I gave Mr. Longstaff and Miss Beston slides of my charcoal drawings and oil paintings to give to Bacon (as well as posting boxes of slides off to Reese Mews). I still wonder if any of these slides of my art work were found in Reese Mews and are now at Hugh Lane or in the Marlborough Fine Art files: I expect that they were thrown away with the rest of the studio detritus.





                                                S E N S A T I O N I S M




                                                                                                                                                                             Alexej von Jawlensky, Frauenkopf, 1911




"What is painted is sensation." 

Francis Bacon to Andrew Sinclair, 1988




"We are a sensation, without a meaning."

Alexander Verney-Elliott, Being & Sensation, 2005




"Drawing is not form, it is the sensation one has of it."

Edgar Degas,  Degas by himself,   Macdonald & Co., 1987




"Presence in the lighting articulates all the human senses."

Anaximandros, The Anaximander Fragment, c. 610 – c. 546 BC




"That enormous crowd eager for the pure sensations of art."

Victor Marie Hugo, 1802–1885




"Life is a series of sensations connected to different states of consciousness."

Rémy de Gourmont, 1858-1915




"Painting from nature is not copying the object. It is realizing one’s sensations.”

 Paul Cézanne; A Memoir with Conversations, Joachim Gasquet, 1897-1906




"It is not the strength but the duration of exalted sensations which makes exalted men."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Maxims and InterludesBeyond Good and Evil, 1885




"Thoughts are the shadows of our sensations always darker, emptier, simpler than these."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The  Gay Science, 1882




"I'll tell you how I think of my own work: it unlocks the valves of sensation at different levels."

Francis Bacon, Remarks from an Interview with Peter Beard, MOMA, New York 1975




"Clear out the inner world! There are still many false beings in it! Sensation and thought are enough for me."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Summer, 1883




"Not illustration of reality but to catch images which are a concentration of reality and a shorthand of sensation."    

Francis Bacon to Melvyn Bragg, The South Bank Show, 1985




"This sensation to be possessed by a sensation of dispossession and the answer I gave, this fight to conquer what nowhere can be found."

Hélène Cixous, Les rêveries de la femme sauvage, 2000




"What I am trying to convey to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the impalpable source of sensations." 

Joachim Gasquet, Cézanne; Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind, 1964




"If I focus my eyes on an open area, allowing the image I wish to record to steal in through the corner of my eye, I have the sensation of seeing in depth."   

Isabel Lambert, Autobiographical Notes, March 1968




"Art can cease to be a report on sensations and become a direct organisation of higher sensations. It is a matter of producing ourselves, and not things that enslave us."

Guy Debord, These on Cultural Revolution,  Guy Debord and the Situationist International, The MIT Press, 2002




"Deleuze offers a systematic distinction between painting as art (the figural) and illustration (the figurative) by seeing Bacon's work as essentially painterly sensation." 

Andrew Brighton,  Francis Bacon, British Artists, Tate Publishing, 2001




"The smoothness, the tumescence, the milky flow of feminine nudity anticipate a sensation of liquid outpour, which itself opens onto death like a window onto a courtyard."

Georges Bataille, Eroticism, 1957




"Like everything else in Bacon's pictures each element contributes not towards the creation of beauty, but to achieve the most vivid possible communication of a sensation."  

Nigel Gosling, Report from The Underworld, The Observer Weekend Review, 27th May, 1962




"Can you make of a head an image? An image which unlocks the valves of sensation deeper than the appearance? Of course, I'm drunk today and I don't really talk very clearly."

Francis Bacon interviewed by Hugh M. Davies on August 13 1973, from  Francis Bacon: The Papal Portraits of 1953




"The paint acquires a wonderful plenitude in becoming flesh. This kind of paint surface is part of the work of delivering sensations not propositions, and it is neither idly sumptuous nor 'ironically' sexy."  

Robert Hughes,  Nothing If Not Critical, Selected Essays on Art and Artists,  Alfred A. Knopf,  New York, 1990




"Each picture draws attention away from the narrative to the physical, to sensation, to flesh, death, dreams, the drastic rush of violent haemorrhaging, the frenetic tangents of dizziness on a fast rotating planet."  

Poul Erik Tojner,  The Mysterious Heart of Realism: Francis Bacon1998




"To sensation is to confine yourself to a single sensation that one day stands still like a star in the world's sky. We never come to sensations. They come to us. The splendour of the sensation. Being the sensation."

Alexander Verney-Elliott, Being & Alien, 2006




"The artist is only a receptacle for sensations, a brain, a recording device... I paint as I see, as I feel - and I have very strong sensations... As sensations form the foundation of my business, I believe myself invulnerable."  

Paul Cézanne, Conversations with Cézanne, University of California Press, 2001




"Sensation is an extremity of perception. It is the limit at which perception is eclipsed by the sheerness of experience, unreasoned-out, yet unextended into analytically ordered, predictably reproducible, possible action."

Brian Massumi, The Evolutionary Alchemy of Reason, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998




"I think that only time tells about painting... I think that the potency of the image is created partly by the possibility of its enduring. And, of course, images accumulate sensation around themselves the longer they endure."

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




"Beings will have to be thought of as sensations that are no longer based on something devoid of sensation. In motion, no new content is given to sensation. That which IS, cannot contain motion: therefore it is a form of being."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to PowerBook ThreePrinciples of a New Evaluation, 1888




 "I don't know how much it's a question of sensation about the other person. It's the sensations within yourself. It's to do with the shock of two completely unillustrational things which come together and make an appearance."

Francis Bacon, Provoking Accidents, Prompting Chance; An Interview with Michael Peppiatt, Art International, Number 8, Autumn 1989




"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. It’s the sensations within yourself."

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




"To paint from nature is not to copy an object; it is to represent its sensations...The painter must become classical again through nature, or, in other words, through  sensation. It all comes down to this: to have sensations and to read nature."

Paul Cézanne, Conversation with Emile BernardConversation with  Cézanne,  University of California Press, 2001




"Can sensation be assimilated to an original opinion, to Urdoxa as the world's foundation or immutable basis? Phenomenology finds sensation in perceptual and affective 'a priori materials' that transcend the perceptions and affections of the lived."

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, Verso, 1994




"Artuad appears to have been afflicted with an extraordinary inner life, in which the intricacy and clamorous pitch of his physical sensations and the convulsive intuitions of his nervous system seemed permanently at odds with his ability to give them verbal form."

Susan Sontag,  Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, University of California Press, 1988




"Total abandonment to instinct, above all sexual instinct, was an ideal which Bacon maintained with astonishing vigour to the end of his days... And when he said that he 'painted to excite himself', he surely meant: to re-create certain extreme sexual sensations." 

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




"For me, realism is an attempt to capture the appearance with the cluster of sensations that the appearance arouses in me. As for my latest triptych and a few other canvases painted after I re-read Aeschylus, I tried to create images of the sensations that some of the episodes created inside me."

Francis Bacon, Letter to Michel Leiris, 20 November, 1981




"Art reminds us of states of animal vigor; it is on the one hand an excess and overflow of blooming physicality into the world of images and desires; on the other, an excitation of the animal functions through the images and desires of intensified life; an enhancement of the feeling of life, a stimulant to it."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Spring-Fall 1887




"The difference between the impressionistic sensation, which is rapid, ephemeral and fleeting, and that of Cézanne is that his sensations result logically in the full knowledge of the subject in the classical sense. Cézanne often said that he wished to 'become classical again through nature, that is to say, through sensation.'..."

John Rewald, Cézanne, A Biography, London 1986



"The bombardment of new sensations is continuous when a model is present... But usually it is a new sensation of proportion or connection, often revealed by the light... I have always had a predilection for economy, where one mark will stand for twenty sensations rather than where twenty marks stand for one sensation."  

 Frank Auerbach  interview with Michael Peppiatt, Tate, Issue 14, Spring 1998




"The mixed sensations, which transform unpleasant objects and sensations into sources of aesthetic pleasure, are superior to 'purest enjoyment' because they provide an enlivening solicitation of our sensitivity to a heightened degree by means of changing sides - of performing a trajectory with a considerable amplitude of tension."

Winfried Menninghaus, Disgust: Theory and History of a Strong SensationThe Beautiful as Vomitive,  State University of New York Press, 2003




"I feel more and more that nothing matters or will happen until someone makes a new technical synthesis that can carry over from the sensation to our nervous system. The thing I was very shocked by when I saw our things at Unesco, your three and mine, was the boring lack of reality, the lack of immediacy which we have so often talked about."

Francis Bacon in a letter to Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Michael Peppiatt, Westview Press, 1996




"The essence of sensation would then consist in gradually sensing and measuring such temporal figures with more and more refinement; representation constructs them as something coexistent and then establishes the development of the world on the basis of this coexistence: pure translation into another language, into the language of becoming."  

 Friedrich Nietzsche, Note Books1873





"All sensations have appellations of their own, e.g. for sight red, green, yellow, for taste sweet, sour, etc., but smell cannot have proper appellations; rather, we borrow the appellations from other sensations, e.g. it smells sour, or has a smell of roses or carnations, it smells like moschus. These are all appellations from other sensations. Hence we cannot describe smell."

Immanuel Kant, Reflexionem zur Anthropologie, 1798




"Baudelaire's obsession, his 'speciality'  (indeed, his trademark), was the 'sensation of the new'. Benjamin speaks of 'the inestimable value for Baudelaire of nouveauté. The new cannot be interpreted, or compared. It becomes the ultimate retrenchment of art.'  Making novelty 'the highest value' was the strategy of l'art pour l'art, the aesthetic position Baudelaire adopted in 1852."

Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectic of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, MIT Press, 1991




"How can we release sensations, affections, emotions from the tyranny of the 'I feel'? How can we reach the impersonal 'it feels'? How can we manage to find a land that is different from and extraneous to conventional feeling, in which personal experience founded on subjectivity at last collapses? Western philosophy has known the answer since the times of the ancient Greeks."

Mario Perniola, Feeling the Difference, Extreme Beauty, Continuum: New York & London, 2002




"My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it… In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul."

Francis Herbert Bradley,  Appearance and Reality, 1893




"Bacon's aim is to record sensation as directly as possible because sensation is an essential part of the experience of reality which he wants to re-invent. 'It may be,' he has said, 'that realism is always subjective.'  This rests on the phenomenalist tenet that we experience reality indirectly, via the evidence of our senses, and consequently that perception constitutes our sense of reality."

Paul Moorhouse, The Crucifixion in Bacon's Art,  Art International, No. 8, Autumn 1989




"How can I draw one more veil away from life and present what is called the living sensation more nearly on the nervous system and more violently...There was a very interesting thing that Valéry said about modern art, and it's very true. He said that modern artists want the grin without the cat and by that he meant that they want the sensation without the boredom of conveyance."  

Francis Bacon to Daniel Farson, The Art Game, 27 August, 1958



"Isn't it that one wants a thing to be as factual  as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation other than simple illustration of the object that you set out to do? A non-illustrational form works first upon sensation and then slowly leaks back into the fact. I work in a kind of haze of sensations and feelings and ideas that come to me and that I try to crystallize."  

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



"Philosophy teaches the eyelids to close tighter and tighter to bar anything still presented by the senses, teaches the gaze to turn inward to the soul, that screen for the projection of ideal images. The horror of nature is magicked away: it will be seen only through the blind of intelligible categories, and the weaknesses that ultimately will lay man low will be laid at the door of an insufficiently lofty point of view."

Luce Irigaray, Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, Columbia University Press, 1991




"If we look at Bacon’s images in light of this understanding of the self/other relationship, it becomes immediately clear that the subjects/figures in Bacon’s paintings are all represented as trapped in a solely inner sensation of self. Again and again we see bodies as series of fragments, dangling on the string of the inner sensation of self. Bacon’s subjects seem to lack the wholeness the self-other relationship would produce."

Ernst van Alphen, Skin, body, self: the question of the abject in the work of Francis Bacon; Abject Visions, Manchester University, July 2016




"And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die."

Marcel Proust, Swan's Way; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922




"Bacon has not only a horror of religion (never forget that he was born and raised in Ireland), but also an acute dislike of narrative painting. His purpose is not storytelling. It is sensation. 'Some paint comes across directly on to the nervous system, other paint tells you the story in a long diatribe through the brain.' That distinction, between "brain" and "nervous system", thinking and feeling, was always of capital importance to him."

Robert Hughes, Horrible!, The Guardian, August 30, 2008




"The opposition between intelligence and sensation is crucial for Bacon. Sensation may include intelligence but the intellect can bypass sensation. Bacon wants his painting to operate primarily through sensation, otherwise it becomes a mere vehicle: 'I want very, very much to do the thing that Valéry said to give the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance. And the moment the story enters, the boredom comes upon you'...."  

Dawn Ades, Francis Bacon, Web Of Images, Tate Gallery Publications, 1985




"Whenever something caught Francis Bacon's attention, his normally genial gaze took on a cold, piercing intensity like a bird suddenly sporting its prey. If you were unfortunate enough to have that look returned on you (and if you spent much time with Bacon, at some point it became inevitable), you had the sensation of being taken apart, swiftly and mercilessly. Vision was where all the senses and all experience converged in their most complete and potent form."

Michael Peppiatt, Bacon's Eyes, Francis Bacon & the Tradition of Art, Skira, 2004




"I have nothing but sensation (Empfindung) and representation (Vorstellung). Therefore I cannot think these as having arisen from the contents of representation. All those cosmogonies etc. are deduced from the data received by the senses. We cannot think anything that is not sensation and representation. Therefore no pure existence of time, space, world, if without that which senses and represents. I cannot represent non-being (Nichtsein). That which is (Das Seiende), is sensation and representation."  

Friedrich Nietzsche, Time-Atom Theory: Nachgelassene Fragmente, Early 1873




"Rapture does not mean mere chaos that churns and foams, the drunken bravado of sheer riotousness and tumult. When Nietzsche says 'rapture' the word has a sound and sense utterly opposed to Wagner's. For Nietzsche rapture means the most glorious victory of form. Rapture as a state of feeling explodes the very subjectivity of the subject. By having a feeling for beauty the subject has already come out of himself; he is no longer subjective, no longer a subject. Rapture is the basic mood; beauty does the attuning."

Martin Heidegger, Rapture as Form-engendering Force; Nietzsche: Volumes One & Two;  Harper Collins, 1991




"The sensations are hardly any longer the occasional causes of isolated images. The real cause of the flux of images is truly the imagined cause. The function of the unreal is the function that truly drives the psychic mechanism, while the function of the real is one of blockage, of inhibition, a function which reduces images in such a manner as to give them the simple value of a sign. It is clear that the immediate contributions of the imagination must be considered alongside the immediate givens of sensation."

Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962)




"Concerning the simple ideas of Sensation, it is to be considered, that whatsoever is so constituted in nature as to be able, by affecting out senses, to cause any perception in the mind, doth thereby produce in the understanding a simple idea; which, whatever be the external cause of it, when it comes to be taken notice of by our discerning faculty, it is by the mind looked on and considered there to be a real positive idea in the understanding, as such as any other whatsoever; though, perhaps, the cause of it be but a privation of the subject."

John Locke, Some further considerations concerning our Simple Ideas of Sensation,  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690



"Levinas's main aim in 'Sensibility and the Face' is to show that although the notion of sensation has been 'somewhat rehabbillitated,' it must always fall short of naming the relation to the face, the ethical relation. Sensation must always participate in the discourse of light which has defined it since Plato. Vision always discerns and receives beings in and from an illuminated space and against the backdrop of a horizon, a horizon which rules out the thought of beings as coming from elsewhere. They come as if from nowhere, as if from out of nothingness."

Paul Davies, The Face and the Caress, Levinas's Ethical Alterations of Sensibility, Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, University of California Press, 1993




"Bacon went on doing his damndest year after year, working the same dilemma: how to be direct yet evasive. His strategy was to take conventional portraiture and deface it. To 'give the sensation', as he used to say, he would serve himself up, wincing at a twisted lip and a dismissive slap round the chops. The small-self portraits are his most reliably brilliant works. But the sensation was transferable to larger format, as he proved in the terrific 'Triptych Inspired by the Sweeney Agonistes', 1997, a sequence o sex and murder, centred on the guard's ghastly discovery in the reserved compartment on the Blue Train."

William Feaver, Raffish old master of the elusive, The Observer, Sunday, 3 May, 1992




"A purely sensory being, Rousseau demonstrated, could not possibly comprehend the identity of an object simultaneously seen and touched. Rousseau went further. He compared the 'sensation of self' and the 'perception' of the external world, and arrived at the conclusion that an individual could 'have' a sensation only if he entered into the sensation of self; and since perceptions brought home what existed outside, while at the same time existing only in the medium of the sensation of the self, it followed that without a sensation of self there was no existence. Or the other way about: the sensation of self produced existence."

Rüdiger Safranski, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989




"How do words refer to sensations? - there doesn't seem to be any problem here; don't we talk about sensations every day, and give them names? But how is the connection between the name and the sensation set up? This question is the same as: how does a human being learn the names of sensations? of the word pain, for example. Words are connected with the primitive, the natural, expressions of the sensation and used in their place. But suppose I didn't have any natural expression for the sensation, but only had the sensation? And now I simply associate names with sensations and use these names in descriptions."

Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Private Langauge ArgumentPhilosophical Investigations, 1953




"All art exercises the power of suggestion over the muscles and senses, which in the artistic temperament are originally active: it always speaks only to artists-it speaks to this kind of a subtle flexibility of the body. All art works tonically, increases strength, inflames desire (i.e., the feeling of strength), excites all the more subtle recollections of intoxication there is a special memory that penetrates such states: a distant and transitory world of sensations here comes back. The aesthetic state possesses a superabundance of means of communication, together with an extreme receptivity for stimuli and signs."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, March-June 1888




"What can the philosophizing person stake? Answer: his own anxiety and boredom, his own listening to the call of conscience. Any philosophizing that does not take its beginning from the moments of true sensation is devoid of roots and relevance...In short, existential analytics, to be understood at all, requires existential engagement. Heidegger therefore must find a way to conjure up in his students those moments of true sensation. He must, in a sense, stage manage them...The moments of true sensation - anxiety, boredom, call to conscience have to be aroused in his students so that the 'mystery off Dasein' that inhabits them may show itself."

Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, Harvard University Press, 1998




"Since, in his case, sensation takes precedence over ideation, and since his chief driving force is a vehement desire to grasp reality, we can say that Bacon has a frenzied, as well as effusive, approach to that reality which, above all other, he is endeavouring to translate, and that this frantic, almost panic, urge produces an emotional breaching of boundaries which introduces, into the texture of the canvas, the disturbance felt by the artist himself, so that it is less through deliberate than through what might be called affective, distancing that he achieves the sensation of presence, unobtainable otherwise either by a copy or an intellectual transcription." 

Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full face and in profile, New York, 1983




"We only know our own sensations, not those of the other...The sensations of the sexual act themselves have a provocative agreement with figures. The sensation exhibits the true object of desire (but the object of desire is itself an exhibit of the sensation). The tepidness of rain in the [brambles? rosebushes?], the dull fulguration of the storm, evoke both the figure and the inner sensation of eroticism. The smoothness, the tumescence, the milky flow of feminine nudity anticipate a sensation of liquid outpour, which itself opens onto death like a window onto a courtyard. But it is human to search, from lure to lure, for a life that is at last autonomous and authentic."

Georges Bataille, The Object of Desire and the Totality of the Real, Zone Books, 1993





"Sensations were the root of everything for Cézanne. From the beginning to the end of his career, they were his pride and justification. The sensations for which he continued to seek an expression to the end of his life, as he explained to Henri Gasquet, the friend of his youth, were 'the confused sensations which we bring with us when we are born'.  The word had, in fact, a double meaning contact with nature 'revived within us the instincts, the artistic sensations that reside within us'. The double meaning of the word corresponds to the dual significance attaching to the paint marks themselves in the late work. It is in the last two years of  Cézanne's life that the sensations are identified precisely as colour sensations, the sensations of colour that give light."

Lawrence Gowing, Cézanne: The Logic of Organised Sensations,  Conversations with Cézanne, University of California Press, 2001




"There are in fact no illusions of the senses, but only mistakes in interpreting sensational data as signs of things other than themselves. Or to speak more exactly, there is no evidence that there are illusions of the senses. Every sensation which is of a familiar kind brings with it various associated beliefs and expectations. When, say, we see and hear an airplane, we do not merely have the visual sensation and the auditory sensation of a whirring noise; spontaneously and without conscious thought we interpret what we see and hear and fill it out with customary adjuncts. To what extent we do this becomes obvious when we make a mistake — for example, when what we thought was an airplane turns out to be a bird. "

Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, Simon & Schuster, New York. 1948



"There are no feelings in Bacon: there are nothing but affects; that is, 'sensations' and 'instincts,' according to the formula of naturalism. Sensation is what determines instinct at a particular moment, just as instinct is the passage from one sensation to another, the search for the 'best' sensation (not the most agreeable sensation, but the one that fills the flesh at a particular moment of its descent, contraction, or dilation)... Cézanne, it is said, is the painter who put a vital rhythm into the visual sensation... Could it be that Bacon's closed and artificial world reveals the same vital movement as Cézanne's Nature?...What is ultimate is thus the relation between sensation and rhythm, which places in each sensation the levels and domains through which it passes. This rhythm runs through a painting just as it runs through a piece of music."

 Gilles Deleuze,  Painting & Sensation; Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2003




"Let us turn briefly to the philosophical debate that asks whether a sensation is a thought. This debate has important ramifications for contemporary philosophical inquiry, but its origins date back to antiquity... Sensation, which cannot be reduced to ideas even though it is intrinsically dependent on them, can never be equivalent to Intelligence... Nevertheless, sensation can only exist if it makes itself intelligible...The difficulty of defining sensation prompts us to shift our discussion to a disorder that has attracted the attention of psychotherapists, psychiatrists, neurologists, and contemporary psychoanalysis: autism... I refer to this ailment because its specialists have offered a useful theoretical understanding of sensation and of the relationship between sensation and language."

Julia Kristeva, Is Sensation a Form of Language? ;  Time and Sense,  New York : Columbia University Press, 1996



"Bacon’s 'middle way' is not figuration. It is not a synthetic unity of empirical objects represented to subjects. The figure is not a representation. The figure is sensation itself. It renders visible the forces that are invisible.  Sensation is the expression of sub-representative forces that do not resemble it.  It is not representational figuration that provokes sensation. Rather, sensation produces a new resemblance from real difference. Sensation is the non-resembling means that provokes the figure. Bacon paints the sensation itself.  Horror is inferred from the scream, not the reverse. If the scream is inferred from a subjective sensation of horror or a horrifying object, then narration and representation are re-introduced.  Sensation the figure the scream is botched."

Beth Metcalf, Deleuze's Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, January 2006




"The narrative is not the content of perception, but defines the structure of perception itself. Deleuze's study can help us to develop this hypothesis. It pursues the question of what the implications are of certain key expressions that Bacon has often used in interviews: 'orders of sensation', 'levels of sensation' , 'domains of sensation' and 'moving sequences'. When we see the levels of sensation as a plurality of senses, however, we lose sight of movement in Bacon's paintings. Precisely this movement was central to Deleuze's third reading of Bacon's expression 'the levels of sensation'. Moreover, although the notions of 'sense' and 'sense organ' seem to be important for an understanding of Bacon's paintings, the differentiation of sensation according to levels does not seem to be very relevant to these paintings."

Ernst Van Alphen, Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self, Reaktion Books, 1992




"He rejects illustration and narration and seeks to replace them with what he calls 'matters of fact'. These turn out to be nothing less than sensations that act directly on the nervous system...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. Within Bacon's paintings there are, attached to bodies, flat bounded shapes. Usually they are called shadows by commentators. I want to think of them as the lamella... Not all the shadows are 'extra flat' but we can easily take the pink and mauve oozing matter to be the lamella. 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 Bacon's work is to claim that he has taken the detachment of the gaze to its limit." 

Parveen Adams The Violence of Paint; The Emptiness of the Image, Routledge 1996




''Disgust uses images of sensation or suggests the sensory merely by describing the disgusting thing so as to capture what makes it disgusting... For one thing, it is easy to come up with words to describe disgusting sensations when these are moist, viscid, pliable, than when they are dry, free flowing, or hard. For every disgusting scabby or crusty thing there are tens of disgusting oozy, mucky, gooey, slimy, clammy, sticky, tacky, dank, squishy, or filmy things...We thus talk of how our senses are offended, of stenches that make us retch, of tactile sensations of slime, ooze, and wriggly, slithering, creepy things that make us cringe and recoil... Because the threatening thing is disgusting, one does not want to strike it, touch it, or grapple with it. Because it is frequently something that has already gotten inside of you or takes you over and possesses you, there is often no distinct other to fight anyway." 

William Ian Miller,  The Anatomy of Disgust, Harvard University Press, 1997




"That even the greatest Philosopher ever arrived at his Goal without putting aside numerous objections? However it may be, O for a life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts! It is 'a Vision in the form of Youth,' a shadow of reality to come and this consideration has further convinced me, for it has come as auxiliary to another favourite speculation of mine, that we shall enjoy ourselves hereafter by having what we called happiness on Earth repeated in a finer tone. And yet such a fate can only befall those who delight in Sensation, rather than hunger as you do after Truth. Adam's dream will do here, and seems to be a Conviction that Imagination and its empyreal reflexion, is the same as human life and its spiritual repetition. But, as I was saying, the simple imaginative Mind may have its rewards in the repetition of its own silent Working coming continually on the Spirit with a fine Suddenness."

John Keats, Work on Endymion, 1817



"In pursuit of the logic of sensation, where the philosopher, Deleuze, might be said to greet and conjoin briefly with the artist, Bacon, the former posits the notion of figure against that of figuration. Where figure is conceived as the direct relation of form to sensation, figuration is the stultification of form, the operation whereby form merely stands in place of the absent object that it is supposed to represent. Bacon's bullfights display the movement of bodily deformation and fleshy zones of indiscernibility that escape the facticity of experiencing flesh.That which Deleuze wants to celebrate, alongside the creation of concepts or the production of sense, is sensation, which he gives as the meeting place between things and thought, where difference continues to shimmer. Sensation, which sets the form into motion, participates in the surging forth of all the differential elements of life despite the persistent proximity of death."

Hélène Frichot, Bullfighting, Sex and Sensation, Colloquy Issue Five, 2001




"To begin with, we can divide the senses of corporeal feeling into those of the vital sensation (sensus vagus) and those of organic sensation (sensus fixus); and, since they are met with only where there are nerves, into  those affecting the whole system of nerves, and those which affect only those nerves belonging to a certain member of the body. The sensations of warmth and cold, even those aroused by the mind (for example, through quickly rising hope or fear), belong to the vital sensation. The shudder seizing people even at the idea of something sublime, and the terror with which nurses' tales drive children to bed late at night, belong to the later type. They penetrate the body, so far as it is alive. For this reason disgust, a stimulus to discharge something that has been consumed through the shortest path of the gullet (to vomit), is given to the human being as such a strong vital sensation, since such an inner intake . . . can be dangerous."

Immanuel Kant,  Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 1798




"In Prison. — My eyes, however strong or weak they may be, can see only a certain distance, and it is within the space encompassed by this distance that I live and move, the line of this horizon constitutes my immediate fate, in great things and small, from which I cannot escape. Around every being there is described a similar concentric circle, which has a mid-point and is peculiar to him. Our ears enclose us within a comparable circle, and so does our sense of touch. Now, it is by these horizons, within which each of us encloses his senses as if behind prison walls, that we measure the world, we say that this is near and that far, this is big and that small, this is hard and that soft: this measuring we call sensation — and it is all of it an error! The habits of our senses have woven us into lies and deception of sensation: these again are the basis of all our judgements and 'knowledge' — there is absolutely no escape, no backway or bypath into the real world!"

 Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, 1881




"The tactile sensation of digging into matter with one's fingers, discovering its substance beneath form and color gives one the illusion of touching the very essence of matter. Once the material imagination has opened the inner depths of substance to us, untold riches are ours. A material image dynamically experienced, passionately adopted, patiently explored, is an opening in every sense of the word, in its real sense and its figurative sense. It assures the psychological reality of the figurative, the imaginary. The material image transcends immediate existence and deepens superficial existence. The deepening reveals a double perspective: opening into the interior of the active subject and into the inner substance of the inert object encountered by perception. However, in working with matter, this double perspective is reversed. The inner depths of subject and object interchange; a salutary rhythm of introversion and extroversion come to life in the worker's spirit."

Gaston Bachelard, Earth and Reveries of Will — An Essay on the Imagination of Matter, 1943; The Dallas Institute Publications: 2002




"Sensation, which is at the basis of sensible experience and intuition, is not reducible to the clarity or the idea derived out of it. Not because it would involve an opaque element resistant to the luminousness of the intelligible, but still defined in terms of light and sight. It is vulnerability, enjoyment and suffering, whose status is not reducible to the fact of being put before a spectator subject. The intentionality involved in disclosure, and the symbolization of a totality which the openness of being aimed at by intentionality involved, would not constitute the sole or even the dominant signification of the sensible. The dominant meaning of sensibility should indeed enable us to account for its secondary signification as a sensation, the element of cognition. We have already said that the fact that sensibility can become 'sensible intuition' and enter into the adventure of cognition is not a contingency. The dominant signification of sensibility is already caught sight of in vulnerability."

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 1974




"I work in a kind of haze of sensations and feelings and ideas that come to me and I try to crystallize. It's not so much the painting that excites me as that the painting unlocks all kinds of valves of sensation within me which returns me to life more violently. Certainly one is more relaxed when the image that one has within one's sensations — you see, there is a kind of sensational image within the very, you could say, structure of your being, which is not to do with a mental image — when that image, through accident, begins to form. In working you are really following this kind of cloud of sensation in your-self. Isn't it that one wants a thing to be as factual as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation other than simple illustration of the object that you set out to do? An illustrational form tells you through the intelligence immediately what the form is about, whereas a non-illustrational form works first upon sensation and then slowly leaks back into the fact."  

Francis Bacon, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, Thames and Hudson: 1987.        




"In the main, I agree more with the artists than with any philosopher hitherto: they have not lost the scent of life, they have loved the things of 'this world' they have loved their senses. To strive for 'desensualization': that seems to me a misunderstanding or an illness or a cure, where it is not merely hypocrisy or self-deception. I desire for myself and for all who live, may live, without being tormented by a puritanical conscience, an ever greater spiritualization and multiplication of the senses; indeed, we should be grateful to the senses for their subtlety, plenitude, and power and offer them in return the best we have in the way of spirit. What are priestly and metaphysical calumnies against the senses to us! We no longer need these calumnies: it is a sign that one has turned out well when, like Goethe, one clings with ever-greater pleasure and warmth to the 'things of this world': for in this way he holds firmly to the great conception of man, that man becomes the transfigurer of existence when he learns to transfigure himself."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 1885




"The dream (or daydream) of painting sensation is not exclusive to Bacon and underpins the work of numerous modern artists. Empiricism, that particularly British phenomenon, also has a part to play here, for sensation, surely, is a link with the reality that is both in things and in the self? Artists are engaged not only in experiencing sensations, like anyone else, but in evaluating them, in knowing and recognizing them, and refining them as to give them new form. Cézanne and Bacon share an idea of the continuity between the object viewed and the sensation this produces in the viewer, a continuity that is almost physical. The artist's  job is to record this sensation. In Bacon's case the sensation passes directly to the nervous system, without the intermediary of the brain or intellect, less still of knowledge and speech. Listening to Bacon, it is easy to understand how little this sensation has to do with the sensational, with facile effects, or with feelings of repulsion or passions of any kind. the spectacle of pain and the violence that emerges out of the artist's work refer back to a naked matter, the chaos as the common condition of life."    

Christophe Domino, Francis Bacon 'Taking Reality by Surprise', New Horizons, Thames & Hudson: 1997





"Sensations of feeling or sensual feelings are inseparable from their founding sensations. The pleasantness of a savoury dish, the agony of a sensual pain, the comfort of a soft garment are noticed where the food is tasted, where the pain pierces, where the garment clings to the body's surface. However, sensual feelings not only are there but at the same time also in me; they issue from my 'I'... A 'withered' limb without sensations is not part of my living body... For the living body is essentially constituted through sensations: sensations are real constituents of consciousness and, as such, belong to the 'I'...Whether a sensing 'I' is conceivable without a living body is  another question. This is the question of whether there could be sensations in which no living body is constituted. The answer can be given with further ado because, as already stated, the sensations of the various sensory provinces do not share in the structure of the living body in the same manner."

Edith Stein, On the Problem of Empathy, ICS Publications, Washington DC, 1989




"The ways to avoid narrative or illustrative painting were by the abstract or the sensation, as Cézanne did. The Hegelian idea of sensing and feeling was translated by Cézanne into how to paint, how to use spontaneity and temperament and instinct and the nervous system and the vital moment to create a picture. He taught the Impressionists that sensations did not lie in the play of light and colour, but in the feeling for the form of an apple.  Sensation was what was painted, not what as represented. It was what was lived while the sensation was experienced. Painting that sensation linked Cézanne to Bacon, and sensation was also the mistress of distortion. Every series of triptych by Bacon showed variants of sensation, which occasionally accumulated or coagulated. He sought the sensation that would best occupy the flesh. Above all, he tried to capture a vital rhythm in his visual sensation, as Cézanne had. He followed Cézanne in creating a sensation of endurance and clarity. The sensations of his life were the sensations of his painting." 

Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life & Violent Times, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1993 




"In the Critique of Pure Reason, sensation, as 'something,' occupies the place of the inextinguishably ontical. But sensation holds no higher cognitive rank than any other real entity. Sensations    the Kantian matter, without which forms would not even be imaginable, so that the forms also qualify the possibility of cognition    sensations have the character of transiency. Nonconceptuality, inalienable from the concept, disavows the the concept's being-in-itself. It changes the concept...There is no sensation without a somatic moment. To this extent the concept of sensation, in comparison with that which it allegedly subsumes, is twisted so as to satisfy the demand for an autarkic connection of all cognitive steps. While sensation is a part of consciousness, according to the cognitive principle of styling, its phenomenology    unbiased, under the rules of cognition    would have to describe it equally as that which consciousness does not exhaust. Every sensation is a physical feeling also."

Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Routledge, 1973





"In what the senses of sight, hearing, and touch convey, in the sensations of colour, sound, rough, roughness, hardness, things move us bodily, in the literal meaning of the word. The thing is the aistheton, that which is perceptible by sensations in the senses belonging to sensibility... Hence the concept later becomes a commonplace according to which a thing is nothing but the unity of a manifold of what is given in the senses. Whether this unity is conceived as sum or as totality or as Gestalt alters nothing in the standard character of this thing-concept...We never really first perceive a throng of sensations, e.g., tones and noises, in the appearance of things    as this thing-concept alleges, after we hear the storm whistling in the chimney, we hear the three-motored plane, we hear the Mercedes in immediate distinction from the Volkswagen. Much closer to us than all sensations are the things themselves. We hear the door shut in the house and never hear acoustical sensations or even mere sounds. In order to hear a bare sound we have to listen away from things, divert our ear from them, i.e., listen abstractly."

Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, 1935





"The matter does not rest with mere immanent existence. In the immanent data, something is exhibited in the unique manner of adumbration, which the immanent data themselves are not; in the visual field, a sameness, an identical spatially extended body-colour is exhibited in the alteration of the immanently sensed colours. All the noematic moments that we, in the natural attitude, see contained in the object and as related to it, are constituted by means of  the immanent data of sensation, and by virtue of the consciousness that, as it were, animates them. In this regard we speak of apprehension as of transcendent apperception: It characterizes consciousness's accomplishment which is to bestow on the mere immanent contents of sensuous data, on the so-called data of sensation or hyletic data, the function of exhibiting something objectively 'transcendent'. It is dangerous here to speak of represented and representing, of interpreting data of sensation, or to speak of a function that outwardly signifies through this ‘interpreting.’ Adumbrating, exhibiting in data of sensation, is totally different from an interpretation through signs."

 Edmund Husserl, The Possibility of Our Acquired Knowledge Being Freely at Our Disposal — Lectures on Transcendental Logic: 1920-1921




"The critique of philosophical intellectualism enters into Jean Wahl's exposition wherever life turns into ideas that transcend it, shedding the keen immediacy and sensation of being. 'We must communicate substantially with what is substantial in things.' This conception of sensation concurs, on many essential points, with Bergson's intuition. The aspect of sensations that Wahl is interested in is less their affective warmth than a certain violence and intensity.  Sensation is something savage, dense, opaque, dark, 'blind, bare contact.' It is described as a jolt, a shiver, a spasm. As if  the intensity of the sensation constituted its content rather than its degree, as if the essence of the sensation could be reduced to that tension, that contraction in which we could catch in the act of movement of being toward its interiority, its descent into self. A movement radically opposed to transcendence: instead of losing or finding itself in the universal, sensation, tensed on itself, affirms the inner substance of man, or the personal structure of being. As philosophy of sensation opposed to Heidegger's. Sensation does not mark our presence in the world, overcome by its own nothingness, but marks the way in which we descend into, and concentrate on, ourselves."

Emmanuel Levinas,  Jean Wahl and Sensation,  Proper Names, The Athlone Press, 1996




"Art is a personal apperception, which I embody in sensations and which I ask the understanding to organize into a painting...We perceive things, we agree about them, they are deep-rooted in us and it is on the basis of this "nature" that we erect knowledge. It is this primeval world that  Cézanne wanted to paint, and that is why his pictures give the impression of nature at its source, whereas photographs of the same landscapes suggest the works of humanity...when one looks at (his pictures) as a whole, (they give) the impression, as in normal vision, of a new order being born, of an object in the act of appearing, in the act of coming together in front of our eyes... In primeval perception, distinctions between touch and sight are unknown. It is the knowledge of the human body which teaches us in the end to distinguish between our senses. The actual experience is not found or made from sense data themselves, but directly presents itself as the center from which sense data radiate."  

Maurice Merleau-Ponty,  Cézanne's Doubt,  Sense and Non-Sense,  Northwestern University Press, 1964




"In order to establish sensation we must proceed on the basis of a certain realism; thus we take as valid our perception of the Other, the Other's senses, and inductive instruments. But on the level of sensation all this realism disappears, sensation, a modification which one suffers, gives us information only about ourselves; it belongs with the 'lived.' Nevertheless it is sensation which I give as the basis of my knowledge of the external world... My perception of the Other's senses serves me as a foundation for an explanation of sensations and in particular of my sensations, but reciprocally my sensations thus conceived constitute the only reality of my perception of the Other's senses... in fact if I start with the Other's body, I apprehend it as an instrument and in so far as I myself make use of it as an instrument...Therefore if I conceive of my body in the image of the Other's body, it is an instrument in the world which I must handle delicately and which is like a key to the handling of other tools... my body always extends across the tool which it utilizes:.. it is at the end of the telescope which shows me the stars... The body is an instrument which I am..."

Jean-Paul Sartre, The BodyBeing & Nothingness, University Paperback 1969





"Suppose that power resides solely in the feeling of power, that, as Nietzsche says, 'It is not the works, it is the faith [or 'belief', der Glaube] that is decisive here, that determines the order of rank'. How in that case could the distinction between a rightful and a false claim be adjudicated, between 'active' willing and 'reactive' ressentiment? How could one tell (say) Zarathustra and Wagner apart if and insofar as both had the same feeling, the same pleasurable sensation of power (the same Gefuhl)?  Power is inseparable from the sensation one has of power, because power depends upon a pleasurable feeling, upon a sensation of difference, 'a feeling of more power ('ein Plus-Gefuhl von Macht,'), or as he writes in Beyond Good and Evil, 'the feeling of growth, the feeling of increased power.'  This is the only criterion of power.  How, then, can Nietzsche coherently deny to anyone who possesses the sensation a rightful claim to power?  And how certifiable is the sensation? Does feeling certify power, or is it the other way round?...The will to power, so viewed, is now vulnerable to Nietzsche's critique of decadence and ressentiment (a term whose root meaning, in the sentiment of sensation, brings us back again to the problem of power as the sensation of power."

James I. Porter, Nietzsche and the Seduction of Metaphysics, Department of Classical Studies, University of Michigan, 2000




"Thus, perceptions, presentations, volitions, and emotions, in short the whole inner and outer world, are put together, in combinations of varying evanescence and permanence, out of a small number of homogeneous elements. Usually, these elements are called sensations. But as vestiges of a one-sided theory inhere in that term, we prefer to speak simply of elements, as we have already done. The aim of all research is to ascertain the mode of connexion of these elements. If it proves impossible to solve the problem by assuming one set of such elements, then more than one will have to be assumed. But for the questions under discussion it would be improper to begin by making complicated assumptions in advance. The primary fact is not the ego, but the elements (sensations). What was said on p. 21 as to the term 'sensation'  must be borne in mind. The elements constitute the I. s have the sensation green, signifies that the element green occurs in a given complex of other elements (sensations, memories). When I cease to have the sensation green, when I die, then the elements no longer occur in the ordinary, familiar association. That is all."

Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations, 1886




"It is a characteristic of sensation to pass through different levels owing to the action forces. But two sensations, each having their own level or zone, can also confront each other and make their respective levels communicate. Here we are no longer in the domain of simple vibration, but that of resonance. There are thus two Figures couples together. Or rather, what is decisive is the coupling of sensations: there is one and the same matter of fact for two figures, or even a single coupled Figure for two bodies. From the start, we have seen that, according to Bacon, the painter could not give up the idea of painting several Figures in the painting at the same time, although there was always the danger of reintroducing a 'story' or falling back into narrative painting. The question thus concerns the possibility that there may exist relations between simultaneous Figures that are nonillustrative and nonnarrative  (and not even logical), and which could be called, precisely, 'matters of fact'. Such indeed is indeed the case here, where the coupling of sensations from different levels creates the coupled figure (and not the reverse). What is painted is the sensation. There is a beauty to these entangled Figures."

Gilles Deleuze, Couples and Triptychs;  Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2003




"In giving up the outline Cézanne was abandoning himself to chaos of sensation, which would upset the objects and constantly suggest illusions, as, for example, the illusion we have when we move our heads that objects themselves are moving if our judgment did not constantly set these appearances straight. According to Bernard, Cézanne 'submerged his painting in ignorance and his mind in shadows.'  But one cannot really judge his painting in this way except by closing one's mind to half of what he said and one's eyes to what he painted. It is clear from his conversations with Emile Bernard that Cézanne was always seeking to avoid the ready-made alternatives suggested to him: sensation versus judgment; the painter who sees against the painter who thinks; nature versus composition; primitivism as opposed to tradition. 'We have to develop an optics,'  Cézanne said, 'by which I mean a logical vision', that is, 'one with no element of the absurd.' 'Are you speaking of our nature?' asked Bernard. Cézanne: 'It has to do with both.' 'But aren't nature and art different?' 'I want to make them the same. Art is a personal apperception, which I embody in sensations and which I ask the understanding to organize into a painting.'..."

Maurice Merleau-Ponty,  Cézanne's Doubt,  Sense and Non-Sense, Northwestern University Press, 1964




"To reiterate Kant, sensation is thought without purposiveness. It is thought that is not taken up by a concept into some telos, some definite finality beyond itself. Just a present, not a future or a plan. It is an impression, but not that of the Impressionists. An impression expressed, but not that of Expressionism. Always outwards facing to the world, but with an entirely internal character of its own. Already a complex assemblage of interactions across the many planes of the mind, planes that anticipate perception, but singular as these complex registers resonate at the same time. This singularity frames the sensation, but not in any discursive context, only as a repetition of affects. In his rejection of narrative in favour of the triptych, the attendant figure and repetition, Bacon is the most Kantian of painters yet. His approach is always to address the sensation with a diagram (as Deleuze calls a painterly technique applied to thought). The diagram immediately diverts the path of the sensation onto the canvas and back out into sensation. Diverts it away from assimilation to concepts and narrative. It establishes, frames, a second register like that of the anticipations of perception, this time on the canvas. The painting becomes a focus for the repetition of the sensation, to the painter and others. It is as Kant says, a sensus communis."

Robert O'Toole, Kant, painting unlocking sensation in senus communis; Warwick Blogs, University of Warwick, August 18 2004




"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 can't 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




"It is exceptional states that condition the artist-all of them profoundly related to and interlaced with morbid phenomena so it seems impossible to be an artist and not to be sick. Physiological states that are in the artist as it were molded into a 'personality' and that characterize men in general to some degree: make of things a reflex of one's own fullness and perfection; 2. the extreme sharpness of certain senses, so they understand a quite different sign language-and create one the condition that seems to be a part of many nervous disorders-; extreme mobility that turns into an extreme urge to communicate; the desire to speak on the part of everything that knows how to make signs ; a need to get rid of oneself, as it were, through signs and gestures; ability to speak of oneself through a hundred speech media-an explosive condition. One must first think of this condition as a compulsion and urge to get rid of the exuberance of inner tension through muscular activity and movements of all kinds; then as an involuntary co-ordination between this movement and the processes within (images, thoughts, desires)-as a kind of automatism of the whole muscular system impelled by strong stimuli from within ; inability to prevent reaction; the system of inhibitions suspended, as it were. Every inner movement (feeling, thought, affect) is accompanied by vascular changes and consequently by changes in colour, temperature, and secretion."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, March-June 1888




"The self-realisation of the idea means that it negates itself and ceases to be a mere idea. What is then this not-thinking, that which is differentiated from thinking? It is the sensuous. The self-realisation of the idea means, accordingly, that it makes itself into an object of the senses. The reality of the idea is thus sensation. But reality is the truth of the idea; thus, sensation is the truth of the idea. Precisely so we managed to make sensation a predicate and the idea or thought a subject. But why, then, does the idea represent itself in sensation? Why is it not true when it is not real, that is, sensuous? Is not its truth made, therefore, dependent on sensation? Is not meaning and worth granted to the sensuous for itself, disregarding the fact that it is the reality of the idea? If sensation for itself is nothing, of what need is it to the idea? If only the idea gives value and content to sensation, then sensation is a pure luxury and a trifle; it is only an illusion that the idea presents to itself. But it is not so. The idea is required to realise itself and represent itself in sensation only because, unknowing to the idea, reality and sensation, independent of the idea, are presupposed as the truth. The idea proves its worth through sensation; how would this be possible if sensation were not unconsciously accepted as the truth? Because, however, one starts consciously with the truth of the idea, the truth of sensation is expressed only afterward, and sensation is made only into an attribute of the idea."

Ludwig Feuerbach, The Philosophy of the Future, 1843




"Sensation is intentional because I find that in the sensible a certain rhythm of existence is put forward - abduction or adduction - and that, following up this hint, and stealing into the form of existence which is thus suggested to me, I am brought into relation with an external being, whether it be in order to open myself to it or to shut myself off from it... As for the subject of sensation, he need not be a pure nothingness with no terrestrial weight... Between my sensation and myself there stands always the thickness of some primal acquisition which prevents my experience from being clear of itself... Sensation can be anonymous only because it is incomplete. If we try to seize ‘sensation’ within the perspective of the bodily phenomena which pave the way to it, we find […] a formation already […] endowed with a meaning... The sensor and the sensible do not stand in relation to each other as two mutually external terms, and sensation is not an invasion of the sensor by the sensible. It is my gaze which subtends colour, and the movement of my hand which subtends the object’s form, or rather my gaze pairs off with colour, and my hand with hardness and softness, and in this transaction between the subject of the sensation and the sensible it cannot be said that one acts while the other suffers the action, or that one confers significance on the other. Apart from the probing of my eye or my hand, and before my body synchronises with it, the sensible is nothing but a vague beckoning."

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945




"What a poor, wretched thing mere sensation is! Even in the noblest organs of sense it is nothing more than a local specific feeling, capable in its way of some variation yet in itself always subjective . . . This feeling cannot possibly contain anything objective, and so anything resembling intuitive perception. For sensation of every kind is and remains an event within the organism itself; but as such it is restricted to the region beneath the skin; and so, in itself, it can never contain anything lying outside the skin and thus outside ourselves. Sensation can be pleasant or unpleasant and this indicates a reference to our will but nothing objective is to be found in any sensation. In the organs of sense sensation  is heightened by the confluence of the nerve extremities; it can easily be stimulated from without by the wide distribution and thin covering of these; and, moreover, it is specially susceptible to particular influences, such as light, sound, and odour. Yet it remains mere sensation, like every other within our body; consequently, it is something essentially subjective whose changes directly reach our consciousness only in the form of the inner sense and hence time alone, that is to say, successively. Here we must clearly separate what actually belongs to sensation from what the intellect has added in intuitive perception. At first this is difficult because we are so accustomed to pass directly from the sensation to its cause that this presents itself to us without our noticing the sensation in and by itself which furnishes, so to speak, the premises to that conclusion of the understanding."

Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, 1813




"My philoaesthetics is centered on fleshcognition engaging directly and firstly with mediation, sense-data, and its formation into representations, and only later deals with concepts. For the zone of bare living is the senses, and even as these senses have been expanded exponentially because of synthesized concepts, a process whereby the concept works through - and out of- the body empirically, through microscopes, telescopes, satellites, or gravitational wave detectors, etc, all our senses still remain at the level of phenomena. There is nothing, even when the senses are greatly expanded, that gives one access to things in themselves, ergo, the idea of concepts merging with objects, as though bodily mediation could vanish, is as flawed today as it was when Kant refuted it. The concepts must always be mediated and derived from the senses. Things in themselves, objects, are given to us via our senses, with the precondition of space and time, Kant is here nearly intuiting Einstein’s space-time theorems, whereby each one, space and time, inheres in the other. Phenomena are, for my purposes of philoaesthetics, both immanent and transcendent within the subject who retains itself as an object-among-objects. More than Descartes’ ‘thinking thing,’ this subject’s body-senses are the logical locus of all immanent presentation into the zone of sensation, representation, cogitation, mental / affective mediation, expatiation and eventually creation. It is the body’s fleshcognition that directly facilitates the transcendental ability for the aforementioned capacities, from the most quotidian mediation of living to radical inventions, revelations, etc."

Tony Robert Cochran, The (Philoaesthetic) Practice of Concept Synthesis, 1, June 2, 2019




"In Hegel’s system, art is the sensuous presentation of the (absolute) Idea; but art’s sensuous particularity was the reason he ranked it below the Concept. The Idea had to be rescued from its entrapment in sensuous appearance. Adorno inverts this hierarchy: art has to rescue sensuous appearance from the Idea (or the reified concept). Adorno binds aesthetic and non-aesthetic discourse in a similar fashion to Kant’s binding of intuition and the concept in cognition: thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind. Reason without aesthetic experience is empty; aesthetic experience without reason is blind. “Artworks speak like elves in fairy tales: ‘If you want the absolute, you shall have it, but you will not recognize it when you see it” (Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1997: 126). Art and philosophy are no longer alternative modes of presenting the Idea, but partners in intuiting or indicating an absolute that—like a withdrawn god—can no longer manifest itself. Aesthetic experience is the experience of the subversion of our efforts at understanding the artwork as a symbolic whole. In the attempt to understand an artwork, our meaning-assigning efforts decompose back into the aesthetic elements that inspired them, restoring the artwork's enigmatic otherness and thereby renewing its invitation to interpreters. This decomposition of meaning back into its unsublateable aesthetic elements achieves a materialism that provides a model for philosophy. The non-conceptual nature of aesthetic experience does not equal a body of statements about the fallibility of conceptual knowledge. The emotion or sensation of not-knowing we consequently feel is produced by aesthetic negativity."

Chris Conti, Sensation at odds with itself: Adorno on Aesthetic Negativity; Literature & Sensation, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 2009




"Sensation is no less brain than the concept. If we consider the nervous connections of excitation-reaction and the integrations of perception-action, we need not ask at what stage on the path or at what level sensation appears, for it is presupposed and withdrawn. The withdrawal is not the opposite but a correlate of the survey. Sensation is excitation itself, not insofar as it is gradually prolonged and passes into the reaction but insofar as it is preserved or preserves its vibrations. Sensation contracts the vibrations of the stimulant on a nervous surface or in a cerebral volume: what comes before has not yet disappeared when what follows appears. This is its way or responding to chaos. Sensation itself vibrates because it contracts vibrations. It preserves itself because it preserves vibrations: it is Monument, It resonates because it makes its harmonics resonate. Sensation is the contracted vibration that has become quality, variety. That is why the brain-subject is here called soul or force, since only the soul preserves by contracting that which matter dissipates, or radiates, furthers, reflects, refracts, or converts. Sensation, then, is on a plane that is different from mechanisms, dynamisms, and finalities: it is on a plane of composition where sensation is formed by contracting that which composes it, and by composing itself with other sensations that contract it in turn. Sensation is pure contemplation, for it is through contemplation that one contracts, contemplating oneself to the extent that one contemplates the elements from which one originates. Contemplating is creating, the mystery of passive creation, sensation. Sensation fills out the plane of composition and is filled with itself by filling itself with what it contemplates: it is 'enjoyment' and 'self-enjoyment.' It is a subject, or rather an inject."

Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, Columbia University Press: 1991




"Sensations, artworks, do not signify, or represent: they assemble, they make, they do, they produce. Art is the becoming-sensation of materiality, the transformation of matter into sensation, the becoming-more of the artistic subjects and objects that is bound up with the subject's cross-fertilization with the art object. Art is that which brings sensations into being when before it there are only subjects, objects, and the relations of immersion that bind the one to the other Art allows the difference, the incommensurability of subject and object to be celebrated, opened up, elaborated...When Bacon wrenches a scream from the screaming-popes, he brings with it not only all the visible forces that a scream enacts, not just the force and intensity of prior pope representations, but the scream-sensation in all its multisensory richness. When he has managed to 'paint the scream more than the horror' (Bacon quoted in Deleuze 2003: 34), the scream only functions as sensation to the extent that we feel and hear it, that it vibrates as a scream, that is, as visual, it nevertheless functions as an auditory cry, resonating or vibrating through us as a scream... Sensation is vibratory excitation that preserves itself and the vibratory force of its materials to the extent it continues to generate corporeal effects, that is, continuing shocks to the nervous system... Sensation, as the contraction of vibrations, is that which mediates between the forces of the cosmos - unknowable and uncontainable forces that we experience as chaos... Bacon extracts a kind of gravitational force, the force that, in the long run, convulses and contorts bodies, not through torture but through everyday positions that have collapsed upon themselves, until flesh descends from the bone into meat. Bacon generates meat-sensations from capturing the force of an invisible, unheard gravitational pull."

Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art, Columbia University Press, 2008




"In Bacon’s words his aim is “to record one’s own feelings about certain situations as closely to one’s own nervous system as one possibly can”. The main way he has achieved this is by making what he calls “irrational marks.” These are the temporary suspension of conscious control, either in a spasm of impatience or exasperation, or when the painter’s hand is liberated by alcohol, as in Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962). Accidental elements can also be forced by the deliberate use of chance–for example, when paint is flung at the canvas. Bacon regards these methods as effective vehicles for recording sensation because, through them the “will has been subdued by the instinct” and consequently images are able to proceed from the unconscious, unchecked and unaltered by reason. These marks are then retained in the form in which they appear, as non-illustrative elements recording a sudden surge of irrational activity, or partially or entirely developed by subsequent mark-making which may be conscious and illustrative or also irrational. But Bacon is not interested in recording feelings for their own sake. Although be believes non-representational marks possess a vitality and a poignancy lacking in marks made in order to illustrate appearance, he has never shown an interest in abstract painting. Moreover, although the irrational marks in Bacon’s paintings are used to disrupt and distort figurative elements, appearance is not modified  simply to reveal extreme emotional states. Instead Bacon’s aim is to record sensation as directly as possible because sensation is an essential part of the experience of reality which he wants to re-invent. “It may be,” he has said, “that realism is always subjective.” This rests on the phenomenalist tenet that we experience reality indirectly, via the evidence of our senses, and consequently that perception constitutes our sense of reality."

Paul Moorhouse, The Crucifixion in Bacon's Art “A Magnificent Armature”,  Art International 8, Autumn, 1989




"Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion manifests a terrible, expressive violence. It does not represent any violent act. But some undefined and inhuman violence that occurred in an unseen space beyond the limits of the painting has impressed its horror on the forms and the coloured areas surrounding them...The human and bestial elements composing the figures, all rendered ambiguous by their respective deformation, are so impenetrable and enigmatic as to thwart comprehension of any explicit meaning. Any attempt to deduce prior intention in the morphology of these bodies by means of logic will fail, collapsing in admission that this painting leads into an unknown area, at whose boundaries conventional logic must halt. In Bacon, painting is not a field for the imitation of apparent reality, but an independent and artificial act emerging from the innermost and most instinctive needs of the individual, dominated exclusively by the profound, wild force of expression... More animal than human, so excessive as to become unaware of its own expressive implications: it is no longer capable of communicating anything intelligible. The very obscurity of the origin of this sensation and the likely identity of the visible subject allows the image to avoid any particular illustrative signification and penetrate instead to the quicker and more intuitive level of the  mind: where sensations act, such as the modes of awareness that precede logic and run deeper than it...The profound, pre-rational faculty that emerges when a nearly superhuman force subverts the conventional order of knowledge is called sensation. And it is this that Bacon arouses and elaborates in the act of painting: it is a blind condition, because neither its nature, orientation, nor outcome are defined. It is a condition that transcends the normal state of the human condition, driving existence into a state of hypersensitivity, where it too is unaware of the outcome."

Luigi Ficacci, Bacon'Obsessed by Life'The Expression of Horror, Taschen, 2003




"Deleuze, in his book on the painter Francis Bacon and Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?, characterize three elements of an artistic monument, citing the paintings of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Bacon as examples, which together render imperceptible sensory becomings perceptible. These elements are the flesh, the house, and the universe-cosmos. Deleuze says that the new problem of painting after Cézanne for all three painters was that of creating vast homogenous fields 'that carry toward infinity' as the ground for a figure/flesh which preserves the 'specificity or singularity of a form in perceptual variation. One might say that the 'flesh,' as the element of the painting most closely associated with an embodied subject, represents a perspective on sensory becoming. Although flesh is involved in revealing sensation, however, Deleuze and Guattari say it is no more than a thermometer of sensory becoming. The portraits of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Bacon depict flesh in unnatural colours and broken tones. This conveys some of the variability of a passage of sensory becoming in relationship to the universe-cosmos the monochrome fields that ground the flesh...The relationship between the first element of flesh and the third element of the field or universe-cosmos is mediated by the second element, the house, or what, in reference to Bacon's paintings, Deleuze calls the contour. In Bacon's paintings, Deleuze claims that the contour the circle or oval, chair or bed, on which the flesh or figure is placed acts as the membrane through which a double exchange between the figure and the background field flows. It is in this second element of the house or contour that the body blossoms. It is he house or contour that gives sensation the power to stand on its own by acting as a kind of filter for cosmic forces. The painting creates a being of sensation that stands on its own. The being of sensation is not located in the figure of the painting; that is, it is not the flesh but rather the relationship among figure, house or contour, and universe-cosmos or field."

Tamsin Lorraine, Irigaray and Deleuze: Experiments In Visceral Philosophy, Cornell University Press, 1999




"As opposed to the violence of representation (the sensational, the cliché), Bacon proposes the violence of sensation...When Bacon speaks of sensation, he means two things, both very close to the notion of  Cézanne. Negatively,  he says that the form as related to the sensation (Figure) is the opposite of the form related to an object which it is to represent (figuration).
 As Valéry put it, sensation is that which is transmitted directly, and avoids the detours and boredom of conveying a story. And positively, Bacon constantly says that sensation is what passes from one 'order' to another, from one 'level' to another, from one 'area' to another. This is why sensation is the master of deformations, the agent of bodily deformations... Each sensation exists a different levels, in different orders and multiple domains...This means that there are not sensations of different orders, but different orders of one and the same sensation. It is the nature of sensation to envelop a constitutive difference of level, a plurality of constituting domains...The sensation is that which is paint. And the paint, in the painting, is the body, not inasmuch as it is represented as an object, but because it is capable of evoking that particular paint sensation, which is essentially rhythm... But in simple sensation, rhythm still depends on the Figure, it presents itself as a vibration that traverses the body without organs, it is the vector of sensation, it is that which makes sensation pass from one level to another. In contrast, in the coupling of sensation, rhythm liberates itself already, since it confronts reunites diverse levels of different sensations: it is now resonance, but it is still confused with the melodic lines, the points and counterpoints of a coupled Figure; it is the diagram of the coupled Figure... Sensation is what is painted in painting. It is the body, but not in the same sense that the body is represented as an object: rather in the sense that the body is experienced as experiencing such sensations."   

Gilles Deleuze, Painting & Sensation; Francis Bacon:  The Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2003