Monday, 5 January 2009

"We are meat, we are potential carcasses"

One of me new years resolutions was to not let things pass me by and make more of an effort, regret in hindsight has always been the easier option, along with financial constraints and excuses devised around such spanner type devices.
So, with this in mind I bought myself a train ticket & exhibition ticket and made my way down to London to see the Francis Bacon show at the Tate Britain the day before it closed and would become ‘one of those things I really should have done’

I have never been to London before on my own, and never travelled so far on a train knowing that when I arrive I would have to also navigate my way through the maze of the London underground system.

I didn’t help matters that the day before my journey a ‘light aircraft’ decided to crash land onto the main railway line, bringing the overhead lines down, killing the passengers and pilot and bringing the whole rail system to a grinding halt.

I fully expected all trains to be cancelled. The train due before mine was.
My train arrived on time and took me direct to Euston London with just an added 60 minutes diversion.. Can’t complain about that.

From the station I walked down into ‘the underground’ bought a day ticket and then worked out from the multi-coloured spaghetti maps which line/stop I needed.

It was all just too easy. I arrived at Tate Britain in time to collect my pre-booked ticket (which was a God send as the queue was huge and a TV monitor was flashing up what time slots where left and this was counting down very quickly) found the cafe, got a beer & waited to be let in.

The exhibition was divided into ten rooms;

Animal, Zone, Apprehension, Crucifixion, Crisis, Archive, Portrait, Memorial, Epic and Late.

I’m not going to write a review here of every room and painting, you can find reviews all over the internet, or better still, look at the paintings also found all over the internet.

The immediate shock that hits you as soon as you step into the first room is unbelievable and is one that carries throughout the entire exhibition, his theme of ‘without God. humans are subject to the same natural urges of violence, lust and fear as any other animal’ is always very evident, from the first contorted and disfigured apes/baboons & male nudes to the agonising screams of his ‘Popes’ after Velazquez

Flesh and paint become blurred, his techniques of layering thick elephant hide paint onto the ‘wrong side’ of the canvas, a visual that until you see the actual paintings cannot be appreciated in reproductions/prints found in books.

The Crucifixion paintings are quite horrifying, bleak & brutal, again coming back to that atheist viewpoint (ironically due to the subject, but all we ever actually see being crucified are lumps of meat) it is more the gloating figures that surround the gory event that disturb.

Bacon painted these towards the end of the second world war, and it is said that people didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming possibility of ‘peace’ - Bacon knew that it would make no difference and that human kind would go on to commit horrific deeds against itself.

My favourite room. Not because of the recent controversy caused by the finding of lists and potential subjects that he denied ever making.
He always stated his paintings where accidents and by chance, that he never made sketches, lists, etc.. well, apparently he did.

He also once described images falling into his mind like slides.. well, perhaps too many slides where falling, maybe he was struggling to remember them all..
It doesn’t really prove anything or take anything away, but I always find it fascinating to see the surroundings, the paint marks that miss the canvas, the things trodden under foot, the scribbles.. “figure like Rodin” etc..


The last room. He is in his seventies now. In this room, fittingly for me, before returning to the 'safety' of the real world, is the painting 'Blood on the Pavement' painted in 1988 (four years before his death). For somebody who put the 'figure' back into modern day painting, this painting has a suprising significance and ironically no figure, just perhaps the final mark of one. It is for me the most bleak of all, nothing at all, just a splatter of blood left on some indescript grey stone pavement, people will walk by probably not even stopping to look at it in this modern world of everyday violence.

His paintings where his life and his lived every 'chaotic/controlled' paint stroke to the full, I always imagined him in his filthy squalid studio, drinking, smoking, painting, there was no other place, no going home from the office to some comfortable & expensively decorated designer apartment to watch ‘Strictly come cooking’ on TV.


  1. Thank you for writing/sharing this inspired and thoughtful account of your journey. What an important way to start your year.It makes me want to go somewhere and see some major works of art. To really absorb the time frame and ethos of an artist, to notice the textures and techniques that can never be seen in books.

    To be surrounded by ten rooms of Francis Bacon... that is something you will never forget.

  2. YAYYYY!!!!! You did it!!!
    Quite evidently an event that will stay with you for life.
    2009 has got off to a great start for you. Long may it continue. x