If you can talk about it, why paint it? – Francis Bacon.

You know… Reading that above title caused me to have a light bulb moment. I wish I had understood the point made in that statement when I was studying art at Manchester University.

In those days I’d be so busy the school terms would fly by and the end of a term meant a  group evaluation session. I so disliked these sessions, thinking about them caused  my stomach to  twist and knot until my heart would drop in to my stomach and float  in a black  pool of dread… I’m not known to dramatise, much.

 My working area was unsurprisingly in a shadowy corner of the studio. There were a line of windows suspended 15 maybe 20 feet from the floor and I often found myself in a daydream looking up at them,  hidden  behind those windows was a hypnotic  view of Oxford road busy with  non stop city activity, I made do watching  the dust fizzing in the natural light.

I would carefully  position my sketchbooks, drawings and paintings over my work station and hung some, pressing drawing pins hard  in to the heavily painted wall so my thumbs turned pale and tingly. This was Work that I had carried in huge jumbo folders that morning on a hot bustling  bus, annoying everyone as  I stumbled  and swayed attempting to maintain a standing position. These folders contained days merged into nights upon nights of art that I had considered thought and felt for probably  years of my life. These were secret thoughts of mine that I had examined and re examined until the sentences I used to describe them in my own mind got mixed and muddled until I couldn’t find a beginning or end and now they lay on the studio tables in front of an audience. It felt voyeuristic. My secret Memories and insecurities from deep inside my being were no longer hidden in darkness but between the lead lines in my sketchbook and the colours on canvas.

Us students would slowly shuffle from each person’s work station and take turns presenting our projects. There was definitely a silent  sympathy for one another, as the tutor examining the pieces made dismissive scoffs and snorts in between his  rhetorical questions. Each student would trip over their own words explaining and justifying their art, I think most of us even made stuff up in the vain attempt to offer something that would receive a satisfying nod from the all mighty authority.

Maybe  the bulk of the panic was possibly thinking you would have to start  your project all over again, just draw a line under everything as start a fresh which was impossible to do as the end of year came around even faster.  As my turn would approach  self doubt would  bubble in the back of my mind as my heart beat would begin to quicken caused by thoughts of failing my degree, the embarrassment, the debt, oh the regret!

I was so desperate to just ‘get it’ I wanted to do it right because I loved it. I wanted to understand  the workings of art so I could do it myself, do it constantly  and do it for the rest of my life.

It was all a bit too much for me; I’d keep a part of myself back when having my work critiqued. I even dismissed ideas and  inspiration in order to save embarrassment.  I can only describe it as having your diary read out loud to the world. I wanted to preserve the juicy, gritty bits for my heart only.

Eventually, I stopped creating images that came from my heart and soul. Instead I’d spend endless hours building a collection of work that would give me the best grades. I became transfixed on getting it right and being praised for doing so. If the subject was transparent and uniformed, well finished and documented ready for dissection and assessment, you stood a shining example of achievement.

 Why am I going on about this? Because… I visited the flesh and bone exhibition in Oxford two weeks ago and saw some of Bacon’s art for the first time. This man’s work has probably received more mixed views than most. The majority of the public strongly disliked it  even Margaret Thatcher once described him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”

For me the biggest thing that stands out about Bacon’s art is a piece involving a nameless, faceless stranger he met in a hotel bar and spent the night with. This stranger was a man and the year was 1953….1953!!

The bodies painted on the  large canvas were naked,  contorted and intertwined with one another, their faces and limbs blurred in motion. Unsurprisingly in this era of 50’s Britain most people viewed these works as violent and disturbing. Francis response when questioned about the public’s perception was: “Life is violent, people who don’t understand violence don’t understand life.” When asked if he was upset as to how his paintings were interpreted he said “people can see what they want to see.”

It took a long time for the world to catch up with Bacon,  last week his three studies of Lucien Freud sold at auction for $142.4 million which set a record.

What would Bacon’s paintings have looked like if he had been influenced by the opinions of others? Would there have been any paintings?

Is there an inspiring moral to this tale? Yeah there ducking well is.

Lets take some advice from Liam Lynch whilst we consider the matter… 🙂


Love Vx


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