I recently attended the new Francis Bacon exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York. I was struck by how very powerful his paintings were and was unexpectedly pulled into them, having seen them many times. This most recent visit was intense in its grasp of my attention and emotion.
Bacon is a most curious painter in that he combined a raw and gritty set of images against a beautifully painted and often serene backdrop. Combining the beautiful with the grotesque gives Bacon’s work an unexpected mystery and strength.Francis Bacon came from a design background and did a certain amount of set design early in his career. He had a way with color that was somewhat schizophrenic.
The ‘set’ or ‘stage set,’ within which his figures writhe and twist and bend and scream, is painted in a fairly flat and beautifully coordinated way.
It occurred to me during this visit how elegant were the backdrops, lean and clean and very much like a Motherwell painting in their sensitivity to flat planes of color and beautifully aligned edges. The creation of a proscenium sets the stage quite literally for the drama that is about to unfold.
Within this ‘stage set,’ Bacon gives us figures that are anything but beautiful. Often grey and grisly, Francis Bacon’s figures are twisted and torn, whether sitting or stretched out on the floor.
Bacon’s figures are bruised and bent, sometimes missing parts of their anatomy – as if the pressures of life have carved entire chunks of flesh away. Bacon was interested in diseases of the mouth and one sees in many of his paintings a set of teeth sometimes writhing in agony or detached from the rest of the face.
What we know of his personal life is that he was a very heavy drinker, had several intense personal relationships and that one of his lovers committed suicide. The emotional trail of Francis Bacon is littered with torment, and yet a haunting beauty in much of his work.Many artists are tortured in some fashion, whether from childhood trauma, family angst, the trials and tribulations of daily life, wartime experiences…the list is nearly endless.
A Komarin painting combines, at times, the beautiful and the ugly. The forms in my paintings when altered, changed, and even painted ‘out’ and then brought back in…can be distorted, ugly and perhaps beautiful at the same time. However, unlike Bacon, I don’t paint to express a great deal of internal pain. Or if I do, I am not aware of it. Happily unaware.
The beautiful and the ugly do sit very close on the bench of life. This is true of many experiences where happiness and sadness also sit very close.
Someone dies unexpectedly and a visitor may laugh in discomfort and shock.
Something beautiful unfolds, a spectacular sunset, a baby waking slowly…
…opening his eyes to this world, and the viewer cries.