ART/ How can a believer react to a painting by Francis Bacon?
They are striking images, ones which do not leave anyone indifferent, but which hit the viewer with all their violence and the radicalism of the questions they raise. It is not by chance that a great critic like Michel Leiris indicated the word "presence" as the key word to understanding Bacon, "Presence," he wrote, "in the sense in which I mean it, denotes something more than mere presence of the painting in the portion of space in which I am...it denotes the wrenching presence of the animator of the game (Bacon, ed) and my personal presence as a viewer, ripped from my too habitual neutrality and led to the acute awareness of being there, somehow present to myself, by the bait that hooked me". The result is that, after decades of a marginal evanescent presence, with Bacon, the figure of Christ returned to being a terribly present and real fact. It is said that Bacon's painting is unbearably scandalous in its brutality. I wonder if the scandal does not lie rather in the fact that he made that so trivialized and sanitized presence irreducible and real.
One final observation: sometimes one looks at these paintings with already prefabricated opinions. If one is able to avoid this, one can discover many things in Bacon's painting. For example, one might find that his paintings have a structure almost like a vortex, which draws the viewer to a point in which the painting takes on an intensity that is almost frightening (and which he sometimes shows, didactically, with an arrow). Looking at those areas of his paintings, one is surprised by how, right there, the painting has an unexpected and sometimes dazzling beauty. It is painting that vibrates, that seems to be there to become alive. Or rather, to become flesh. Bacon has a formidable, almost instinctive, awareness of the creatural beauty of flesh, a beauty that is a birth but also a death. Obviously it is something that is unapproachable and not able to be possessed. This is why the power of Bacon (and its truth) lies in those centimeters squared in which he allows the painting to almost leave his hand and slide beyond himself.
For all of these reasons, I think that it would be very interesting for a believer of today to keep his eyes wide open when looking at the works of Francis Bacon.
(translation by Maria Bond)