Ta Da – An Epipanphy courtesy of Francis Bacon with an Assist from Roger Raveel
Part I Because There is Too Much for 1 Post
In which I will strive to not put you to sleep
The Beginning – Part 1
Previous – Part 12
This is my continuing study of art that distorts, smears, or obscures the faces of its subjects. I am trying to get my head around this art – in all its forms. It seems to me to be almost an art movement – there are hundreds of artists that do this type of work exclusively. They are men and women from around the world. They are educated, self taught, professional, and hobbyist. They work in all different genres from photography to sculpture. I think ultimately my goal is to understand what this art says about our world, the culture of our world. I think that collectively this art is saying something about this moment, I think that it means something beyond simply someone smearing their fingers through the paint on a persons face. So I muddle, picking through the minutia of art, looking at different works, parsing them for meaning, comparing them and writing ridiculously ungrammatical sentences. As always if you see your art here and want me to remove it please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will take it down right away. None of this art is mine. All art is attributed, and if you click on it will take you to the spot where I found it.
Francis Bacon in an interview speaking on photography:
He(the artist) knows that the recording can be done by film, so that that side of his activity has been taken over by something else and all that he is involved with is making the sensibility open up through the image. Also, I think that man now realises that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason. I think that, even when Velasquez was painting, even when Rembrandt was painting, in a peculiar way, they were still, whatever their attitude to life, slightly conditioned by certain types of religious possibilities, which man now, you could say, has had completely cancelled out for him. Now, of course, man can only attempt to make something very, very positive by trying to beguile himself for a time by the way he behaves, by prolonging possibly his life by buying a kind of immortality through the doctors. You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself; and you may say it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. And I think that that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all. – Francis Bacon in an interview with David Sylvester
So I have to go back to go forward. Bear with me, forgive my spelling and mangling of history and language, for I am going somewhere. So in the past the representation of the face, the portrait, had a purpose. The quote I used previously used in Part 9 from artist Edwin Dickinson where he spoke about the his intense study at the Arts Students League in Manhattan under William B. Chase in 1911. His education consisted of painting pictures over and over and over again. He had to turn in a painting a week at one point. He said of the his portraits, “It wasn’t a person; it was a picture.” (VIA) I think that this is closer to how artists thought of their art and their approach to the creation of paintings before modern art. I can’t identify exactly when, because I don’t have enough knowledge of art history to know, but I do know this – Francis Bacon is right.
How is he right? Look at this painting by Anthony Van Dyck done in 1635 of Charles I. It was done to send to Bernini, a sculptor, who was in Rome, so he could create a bust of Charles the I.
Not only is this portrait done in incredible detail, it is a masterpiece in its own right. It also has a purpose. Art had a purpose. It was to record life. It was to commemorate Kings, to record their rule. People didn’t want to be forgotten – they still don’t. Art also had purpose for everyday people. Contemporary artist Kai McCall is interested in 17th Century Dutch genre paintings. They often recorded in over the top beauty mundane and visceral everyday life. McCall creates modern satirical works around this idea:
An original 17th Century Dutch genre painting:
These paintings were all about recording life – they had a purpose, just as landscape photography does, or selfies do. So when Francis Bacon says, “He(the artist) knows that the recording can be done by film, so that that side of his activity has been taken over by something else. . .” he knows that the purposeful part of art, the really purposeful practical part of art was finished. No one needs to hire a painter to paint their wedding portrait any more. No one needs to hire a painter to record the birth of their child, or to create a picture of their prize winning cow, or record the coronation of a king. Take a picture.
It doesn’t mean that people don’t hire painters to paint these things. They do, but not because they have to, or because that is the only means of memorializing them other than creating a written record of them. So, where does this leave artists? According to Francis Bacon, ” all that he (the artist)is involved with is making the sensibility open up through the image. Also, I think that man now realises that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason.”; and also, ” You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself; and you may say it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. And I think that that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all.” (This is all from the quote above) What he means is that without art being a practicality, without it being a necessity, a commodity (ugh that’s a loaded word), art becomes akin to a game. The word game though has other meanings – like gambling which has added value attached to it. It seems shallow, but consider Las Vegas, consider all the betting done on the Kentucky Derby every year, and the enduring popularity of games of chance (poker?) – these have a firm foothold not just in western culture of course. Francis Bacon himself was a roulette addict. The rest of that paragraph he talks about the role of religion in the purpose of art before photography as well. He uses the word deepen which is where we go next – deepen into religion and finding a deepening purpose in art – more than merely recording life.
Next Part 13 Part II – Getting in Deep with Francis Bacon