Francis Bacon AGNSW

If you thought FB was a tortured artist you were right. Everything you ever heard or dreamed of the suffering of the creative soul is here in spades and more, served up on canvas like a plate of live insects. The only thing is, he paints so well that he gets in first and makes a mockery of the stereotypes before the stereotypes can make a mockery of him.

The 1950s canvases are just the right size to walk into. If so inclined, you can enter the cage with the master and taste a little unmitigated bestial agony, body for body, head for head, mouth for throat. The figures will lodge themselves into your chest region for days and sit there undigested, a desperately writhing and simmering mass that never detonates or achieves crescendo. Eventually you will beg for mercy, which will not be granted until you admit that you are living a bourgeois fantasy-life devoid of meaning, and that the only thing in your pathetic excuse for a mind is dinner tonight and whether this skirt looks ok with the boots I pulled out this morning. At which point you will be released from it’s grip back into your tiny existence. Apologise quietly under your breath and back away slowly.

Suddenly there is a technical leap into the 1970s (god only knows what happened in the 60s. One shudders to think). He keeps us with him, creating little indexes so we can track the technical progress alongside him. Clearly more teacher than psychologist (despite the Freudian banquet that is the content of his work) he shows the way, exposing the process for those who are interested. This kind of generosity is rare, and so humanely beautiful.

By room three I’ve reached my sweet spot. I trust the artist and know I’m in good hands. He can do anything he wants with me now. The boxes in the early works have morphed into field. And he gives good field. Field and field of field. Surprisingly gentle, playful field. Orange and lavender field. Fuck Brett Whitely. I mean, really, how dared he. The increasing, unmitigated horror of the figures continues, the machine behind them stamping out pain with objective cruelty, however those fields never fail us. They hold the experience and ground us back to sanity. Which is, after all, where we belong and wish to dwell.

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