Monday, April 14, 2008

God's Butcher And His Unholy Worm

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) - Crucifixion, May 1962

DAVID SYLVESTER: Now, in some of your most recent paintings you've both been using strong background colours and gone back to precise and sculptural sort of forms...Do you have a general desire now to make the form more clear and precise?

FRANCIS BACON: Oh yes, the clearer and more precise the better. Of course, how to be clear and precise is a terribly difficult thing now. And I think that's the problem for all painters now, or at any rate painters who are absorbed in a subject in a figurative thing. They just want to make it it more and more precise; but of a very ambiguous precision.

DS: In painting this Crucifixion, did you have the three canvases up simultaneously, or did you work on them quite separately?

FB: I worked on them separately and, gradually, as I finished them, I worked on the three across the room together. It was a thing that I did in about a fortnight, when I was in a bad mood of drinking, and I did it under tremendous hangovers and drink; I sometimes hardly knew what I was doing. And it's one of the only pictures that I've been able to do under drink. I think perhaps the drink made me feel a bit freer.

DS: Have you been able to do the same in any picture that you've done since?

FB: I haven't. But I think with great effort I'm making myself freer. I mean, you either have to do it through drugs or drink.

DS: Or extreme tiredness?

FB: Extreme tiredness? Possibly. Or will.

DS: The will to lose one's will?

FB: Absolutely. The will to make oneself completely free. Will is the wrong word, because in the end you could call it despair. Because it really comes out of an absolute feeling of it's impossible to do these things, so I might as well just do anything. And out of this, one sees what happens.

DS: Did the actual placing of the figures change while you were doing this triptych, or did you see them before you started painting?

FB: I did, but they did change continuously. But I did see them, and the figure on the right is something which I have wanted to do for a long time. You know the great Cimabue Crucifixion? I always think of that as an image - as a worm crawling down a cross. I did try to make something of feeling which I've sometimes had from that picture of this image just moving, undulating down the cross.

Cimabue (c. 1240 - c. 1302) - Crucifixion, 1287-88

DS: And of course this is one of a number of existing images you've used.

FB: Yes, they breed other images for me. And of course one's always hoping to renew them.