Tuesday saw a three hour journey up the M6 after work to attend the private viewing of Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms and it was certainly worth the fact it took another three hours to make it back!
The title of the exhibition ‘Invisible Rooms’ is explained by the curator:
“Francis Bacon often painted a ghost-like frame or structure around the subjects of his paintings. This powerful device skilfully draws our attention to the figures within his work, intensifying their emotional state to us the viewer. Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms looks at some of the artist’s most iconic and powerful paintings with a special focus on this reoccurring motif in his paintings.”
First up was a painting I had only ever seen in books before: Crucifixion from 1933. The ghostly strokes of what can be described as an opened out carcass was chilling and unsettling but totally absorbing.
Bacon’s obsession with the cruciform shape was repeated over the years, growing ever more disturbing as he went along, culminating in this work, simply called ‘Painting’ in 1946: Found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this work shows the splayed carcass, crucified before the seated open-mouthed executioner. It would have been interesting to have seen this alongside the earlier work.
Study for a Portrait was another work that was disturbing to view. The motif of the uncontrolled scream quite evident here and with the blurring of the facial features, as if Bacon had decided to wipe him out, was chilling. The framing that surrounds the head and shoulders added to spa sense of confinement and panic in the figure.
The scream motif fascinated Bacon and his original link to the iconic image from Serge Eisenstein’s film can be seen in Study of the Nurse in Battleship Potemkin:
The Art Story have some detail on ‘The Mouth as Muse’ that is worth a read.
I am fascinated by Bacon’s exploration of the grotesque but there was one painting that was too uncomfortable to contemplate: Study for Chimpanzee. Whether it is the fact it is an animal being portrayed in such agony is the reason, Bacon was adept at revealing the agonies of the human spirit in our nearest genetic relative.
There is so much more to say about the works on show that this could go on for pages! I certainly intend to revisit this for a closer look at what is undoubtedly a standout show.