All 8 entries tagged Francis Bacon

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February 01, 2005

The attendant figure, deterrritorialization, sensus communis

The figure, as a site of habitual sensation, simultaneously dissipates into a chaosmic and unknowable field, whilst defining itself through its engineering agency from that field, which in this return movement stands as a material structure, habitat or frame. The field, being dense with connections, is that space in which the slightest of movements has a massive and irreversible effect. Habit or the organ has no definite sense in the field, has no role in reproduction, hence the necessity to become a 'body without organs' when passing into the field – zero intensity, zero effect, zero feedback, guaranteeing that a return from the field to the figure in repetition, but renewed from the outside.

But how does one reach zero intensity? – how to pass through chaos and back, surviving in some recognisable form? – how do you make yourself such a body without organs? On fleeing from the habitat, from the aparatus of capture, they say that it is necessary to pick-up in an itinerent fashion "weapons" with which to encounter chaos. The weapon is, in fact, that which draws the diagram: some other thing deterritorializing at the same time against which marks can be cut: the painters brush and colours. As they say, 'you never deterritorialize alone'. The friend of the painter is the canvas, brush, colour, texture. And the attendant figure? As Deleuze says of Bacon, not an observer, a counter-point, but a figurative companion standing as a diagram in the deterritorialization through chaos and back. A sensus communis even.

November 07, 2004

Excellent David Burrows exhibition at the Mead – New Life

Writing about web page

It is rare for an artist to produce a work that is both stunning visually, having effect beyond the visual, and philosophically fascinating. In his exhibition New Life, currently installed in the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick (ends 4th December 2004), Dave Burrows has done just that.

The artwork is stunning:

Firstly, what does this exhibition feel like? Stepping inside the large white room, taking up half of the Mead's extensive gallery space, you are quickly drawn past a manifesto-like statement of propositions and into a three dimensional, immersive work that explodes space and compresses time. Across the room debris is strewn, both in concentrations around remnants of building, and between the concentrations. You are in what appears to be a children's bedroom, filled with brightly coloured almost familiar items: flip-flops, toys etc. Between the concentrations, and extending out to the edges of the exhibition, fragments and dense layers of grey crunchy dust (as if from things or persons vapourised) are everywhere. You have to walk through the work itself to see it. You have to enter its moment. Illustrations of the aftermath hang on the walls, including opposing images of a girl and a boy. They act to extend the work out beyond the walls of the gallery. It is spatially a vast and unbounded work.

And philosophically powerful:

We are familiar with, conditioned to, artworks that are spatially constrained. Containment is a powerful mechanism in painting, as in Francis Bacon, who as Deleuze says, confines his subjects spatially (the pope in his chair). But this work seems, at first, to be uconcerned with spatial limits. There are concentrations within it, repetitions and rhythms. There is an entire cartography of intensity. But it seems more unbounded than any painting. We sense that the repetitions could extend out infinitely: the same moment but different again and again.

Narrative usually acts within a work to extend it temporally. A common rule of art is: spatially limited, temporally extended. Landscape is often used to fade out the containment to infinity. But the problem has always been that definition decreases as the distance increases. David Burrows has an interest in mirrors, and the way in which they can, if used correctly, break out of containment without a loss of detail. Perhaps the paintings at the boundary of this work are really mirrors? It certainly feels more extensive than any painting. This combines with repetition to extend the work to infinity. If there is no spatial containment, can there be narrative?

On wandering around the room I was for some time searching for narrative, in fact searching for variables that I could manipulate to play back some kind of narrative implicit in the representation of this explosive event, analysing the phenomenon as if it were the result of some kind of nuclear physics. Variables and functives like those in a scientific experiment: reversible. This is saying something about the limitations of science, and how art deals with the pure event, the event of total loss. There is, fundamentally no "external framing or exoreference" which, as Deleuze and Guattari claim (What Is Philosophy? p.119) is necessary for science. Instead there is the presence of the irreversible Chronos as opposed to the reversible Aion (Deleuze, Logic Of Sense, p.77). Anyhow, David seems to have played upon this desire for narrative sense. Slogans that could lead to some story are graffitied in random locations. The bodies of the children are suggestive of some kind of sick story. But I never got the story. Never grasped the variables. Never worked out how to replay the event. It is, as I think David said in his recent talk at the Mead, an irreversible event (thermodynamics). As described by Deleuze…

Chronos is the present which alone exists. It makes of the past and future its two oriented dimensions, so that one goes always from the past to the future… Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77

…just the aftermath. Hardly identifiable to discourse. No mythology. The familiarity of the artefacts, and the familialism of the children, is just there to tease us. There are no symbolic figures to transcend this event, its got no papa-mommy (Becket via Deleuze), other than the presence of the event itself: immanent.

But there is more. Two concentratory dispositifs hang from the ceiling of the event. Yet again they reverse the normal artistic relationship between time and space. In this case space is confined, while time is opened out. They pass simulateously into its future and reach back into its past. Mobiles suspending familiar objects, either sucked up in the explosion or collapsing as debris. This is the second dimension of the event, of the moment. An indeterminacy. A dice throw…

Aion is the past-future, which in an infinite subdivision of the abstract moment endlessly decomposes itself in both directions at once and forever sidesteps the present. Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 77

…the 'time of the artist' as David Burrows called it. The determinacy of the exhibition, with even the movement of the audience within it making little difference, is punctuated by the hand of the artist holding the moment in these two trajectories. And they draw you in to examine the objects in their suspended animation. You begin to notice the constructedness of the objects, the craft in them, the time of their assemblage. And then are opened out onto a second, intersecting line of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, a second line of time/space containments and explosions folded onto the first. A double event.

October 01, 2004

Klee and the separation of painting and music

Follow-up to Van Gogh and painterly diagrams from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Note – this is academic work. If you know about Deleuze's aesthetics, Klee, Bacon etc, you are very welcome to comment.

Painting, as with Van Gogh, establishes a rhythmic pattern. Through an additive synthesis, painting intensifies the body, leads it into chaotic relations with the rest of the material world, provides it with a depth of simultaneous connections, nearing chaos.

For some time painters have been concerned with the relationship between the rhythmic essence of painting and that of music. Deleuze, in a consideration of Cezanne and Bacon, attempts to clarify this relation:

Rhythm appears as music when it invests the auditory level, and as painting when it invests the visual level. Francis Bacon:Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2004, p.44
Certainly music traverses our bodies in profound ways, putting an ear in the stomach, in the lungs, and so on. It knows all about waves and nervousness. But it involves our body, and bodies in general, in another element. It strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence: it disembodies bodies. In a sense, music begins where painting ends, and this is what is meant by the superiority of music. It is lodged in lines of flight that pass through bodies, but which find their consistency elsewhere, whereas painting is lodged farther up, where the body escapes from itself. ibid p.54

Music then acts to disembody, make abstract, deterritorialize onto a distinct plane. As if pulling the spirit out of the body . The incessant seriality of music acts to concentrate and overwhelm the body in anticipation of perception.1

Paul Klee was concerned with this distinction. As both an accomplished violinist and a painter it would necessarily be an issue. Duchling seems to claim some connection between Klee and the ideas of Nietzsche and Bergson on rhythm in fine arts. Did Klee read Bergson? Anyhow, in the face of attempts by critics to say that Klee's painting was musical, used the same structure as music, Klee responded strongly by emphasising that both arts are rhythmic, but in entirely different ways. Deleuze also had an interest in Klee (will look into that more).

This is the starting point for Duchling's book on Paul Klee, Painting Music. I've just discovered this, and it seems to be fascinating.

In comparison to the Romantics, Klee sought the actual basis for the analogy in the most inner being of music – rhythm – which in his opinion not only marks the movement of time in music, but also in art. Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.14


1Consider here Klee's rejection of Hausenstein's Kantian analysis of finality and purposiveness in Klee - Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.12.

August 29, 2004

Bacon's malerisch, Van Gogh's diagram, and the baroque fold

Follow-up to The artistic diagram and its relation to the statistical diagram from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Preventing the artistic object from becoming a symbol by expressing its emergence from a common materiality. Van Gogh's swirls and hatchings. Bacon's curtain. Bacons turn against the figural is a turn against the figure becoming symbolic, against the nonsense of a logic of sensation that is seperate from its emergence from materiality.

The baroque material, Deleuze, The Fold. The monad. Composibility.

August 18, 2004

Kant, painting unlocking sensation in senus communis

Follow-up to Cezanne unlocking sensation, painting nature from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

To reiterate Kant, sensation is thought without purposiveness. It is thought that is not taken up by a concept into some telos, some definite finality beyond itself. Just a present, not a future or a plan. It is an impression, but not that of the Impressionists. An impression expressed, but not that of Expressionism. Always outwards facing to the world, but with an entirely internal character of its own. Already a complex assemblage of interactions across the many planes of the mind, planes that anticipate perception, but singular as these complex registers resonate at the sime time. This singularity frames the sensation, but not in any discursive context, only as a repetition of affects.

In his rejection of narrative in favour of the triptych, the attendant figure and repetition, Bacon is the most Kantian of painters yet. His approach is always to address the sensation with a diagram (as Deleuze calls a painterly technique applied to thought). The diagram imediately diverts the path of the sensation onto the canvas and back out into sensation. Diverts it away from assimilation to concepts and narrative. It establishes, frames, a second register like that of the anticipations of perception, this time on the canvas. The painting becomes a focus for the repetition of the sensation, to the painter and others. It is as Kant says, a sensus communis.

Cezanne unlocking sensation, painting nature

Follow-up to On art and the art of war – Bacon and Cezanne from Transversality - Robert O'Toole


Cezanne, it is said, is the painter who puts vital rhythm into the visual sensation. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p. 43

This vital rhythm is what Deleuze later calls the diagram of the painter. It is:

…the operative set of asignifying and nonrepresentative lines and zones, line-strokes and color patches. ibid, p.101

They are applications of paint and the hand of the artist that rhythmically reappear. Diagrams are used to unlock sensations, to release them from their immediate take-up in discursive and representational diversions, to bring us to the sensation itself, in its plurality and complexity…

…there are not sensations of different orders, but different orders of one and the same sensation… ibid p.37

…but for no reason other than its own actuality. This complexity, singularity and actuality turned Cezanne towards nature:

Every sensation, and every Figure, is already an "accumulated" or "coagulated" sensation, as in a limestone figure. ibid p.37

Cezanne sought the event or irruption of the sensation as we experience in nature:

This is what one must achieve. If I reach too high or too low, everything is a mess. There must not be a single loose strand, a single gap through which the tension, the light, the truth can escape. I have all the parts of my canvas under control simultaneously. If things are tending to diverge, I use my instincts and beliefs to bring them back together again… Everything that we see disperses, fades away. Nature is always the same, even though its visible manifestations eventually cease to exist. Our art must shock nature into permanence, together with all the components and manifestations of change. Art must make nature eternal in our imagination. What lies behind nature? Nothing perhaps. Perhaps everything. Everything, you understand. So I close the errant hand. I take the tones of colour I see to my right and my left, here, there, everywhere, and I fix these gradations, I bring them together… They form lines, and become objects, rocks, trees, without my thinking about it. They acquire volume, they have an effect. When these masses and weights on my canvas correspond to the planes and spots which I see in my mind and which we see with our eyes, then my canvas closes its fingers. It does not waver. It does not reach too high or too low. It is true, it is full… cited in Cezanne by Ulrike Becks-Malorny, Taschen 2001

Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire

On art and the art of war – Bacon and Cezanne

Some principles of successful military command:

  • Recruit and train forces, divide them up, and arrange them according to the terrain in which they will operate and the opposing arrangements of enemy forces. This requires intelligence, strategy, and imagination.
  • Identify a sufficiently distant goal so as to allow for a wide range of local conditions to emerge on the path to that goal.
  • Provide the forces with time and space in which to operate with relative autonomy in order to explore and adapt to local conditions so as to move towards the objective. This requires diplomacy, political guile, and a certain charm in dealing with those who demand results.
  • Encourage the different individual divisions of the forces to advance with speed or caution as required so as to co-ordinate with each other.
  • Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication to and between the divisions (resource going to the front).
  • Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication from the divisions (resource returning to the command).

On art and the battle ground of the canvas:

As i think Deleuze indicates in his book on Bacon, these artists had a deeply strategic understanding of how to enable, command even, their artistic powers. Each of these principles of good command can be seen in their practices. For example, Deleuze describes how for these artists the terrain is sensation, the enemy is figuration (the figural locked to representation), and the relatively autonomous forces are the artistic diagram (a difficult term, capturing a technique in its relation to the figural but not at the mercy of representation). The diagram is unleashed into unanticipated and dangerous territories of sensation:

The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting. As Bacon says, it "unlocks areas of sensation." Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logic of Sensation, p.102

Deleuze describes in great detail Francis Bacon's strategy for painting, for creativity, for achieving all of the above for the cause of the campaign, creating paintings that each unlock sensation in a new way. He sees this in all great painters, citing Van Gogh and Klee as well, and of course Cezanne, who was prior to Bacon the most effective documentor of the battle ground of the canvas.

June 25, 2004

Painting and Hysteria

Follow-up to Miro's Chaosmosis, Guattari's Art from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I am still slowly working my way through Deleuze's book on Francis Bacon, the Logic of Sensation. It is quite superb. In fact I think the most effective (solo) book by Deleuze. If I had more time I would blog extensively about it. When I move to Kenilworth I will have more time, and hopefully might even finish reading it (and the 5 other books i'm in the middle of). Anyway, all i want to say for now is that it's a great primer for looking at any paintings, for example, this helps me to see why Miro is so special:

…there is a special relationship between painting and hysteria. It is very simple. Painting directly attempts to release the presences beneath representation, beyond representation. The colour system itself is a system of direct action on the nervous system. This is not a hysteria of the painter, but a hysteria of painting.