Thursday, April 16, 2009

Francis Bacon- a Master Painter

I remembered that I haven't done a post solely dedicated to Bacon yet. His oeuvre really changed my view of what painting should and could be, for a few reasons. Firstly, I've never seen the canvas treated in the manner that he does. Paint can be dripped or smeared on, foreign substances like sand added, and the canvas reworked many times before the final effect is achieved (he does not do prior planning). He is not afraid to introduce lines suggesting motion, as well as a palette of saturated, unusual colours like orange and pink, elements that conventionally belong more to the realm of graphic art than painting. In this sense, he is truly modern in his thinking.

Another feature of his works is the contrast between the smooth, monochrome, static appearance of furniture and walls and the blurred, shaded, distorted human forms. This adds richness to his compositionally rather flat paintings. What strikes me the most is his use of the black rectangle, which is often a crucial compositional element. It adds visual impact by contrasting with the bright colours and, to me, symbolizes the unknown and possibly death. The figures in his paintings often appear to be on the verge of falling into this dark abyss or being swallowed up quite literally, as parts of their body are already absent.

Which brings me to another reason why Bacon's works are such an eye-opener- the subjects are not literal but I get it. I feel the rawness and power, and am at once entranced and horrified by the side of human nature displayed. They are definitely not tame paintings, and it's this audacity that makes Bacon a master painter.

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