Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester
Francis Bacon’s work is incredibly powerful and still influences many artists working today, both in terms of its visual impact and in terms of his ideas and techniques. There are many similarities with other important painters like Marlene Dumas for example. Both work from pre-existing images, transforming, mutating and re-imagining them in a way not possible with an actual sitter. In the act of painting, the transformation of the image from the photographic into the painted is referred to as one of violent disfiguration, creating an ‘image more immediately real'(Sylvester, 2002, p.43) than that of the source image.
The primary focus is on the lone figure depicted in a non-space, the effect of which is to draw attention to the character and disrupt the creation of a linear narrative. The line between figuration and abstraction is one that is handled carefully, in order to open up levels of feeling not possible through either pure illustration or abstraction.
In the interviews it becomes clear that Bacon was developing theoretical principles through experimentation with practical techniques; exploring how physical acts resonate with certain questions. Painting itself becomes a way of handling concepts for Bacon. Accident, editing and distilling occur along with the destruction of the image itself, until something completely other appears in it’s place.; all of which manifests Bacon’s ‘obsession with doing the perfect image’ (Sylvester, 2002, p.22). This method relates to Bacon’s comparison between painting and gambling, as in both cases he continues because he feels he wants to win even though he always loses.
Francis Bacon Three studies for a portrait of George Dyer 1969