ART & EXHIBITIONS LIST
us now, there’s a lot I disagree with him philosophically. He doesn’t believe in collective solutions— I suspect he's pretty misanthropic.
The big question that has never been researched is his gay identity — it’s never really come out, to coin a phrase. Are his torments those of a life in the stuffiness ofBritish society? It’s important to see his work in context — it‘s the world of
middle-aged gay men, lonely bedsit London — and he does manage to create a genuine human presence on the canvas.
Yet his work seems to be a hit and miss affair: he only seems to be able to create images through accidents with the paint. Bacon is a gambler, a chronic gambler — in his life as well as in his art.
Mark Boyle, patriarch of the Boyle Family
Francis Bacon’s major contribution to British art is that he has painted a large number ofbrilliant, powerful and very intense paintings. I don‘t measure an artist’s importance in terms of supposed chains of inﬂuence, or by how many devotees are copying his style. There is no doubt that Bacon’s force and his indomitable persistence in the face ofyears of abuse have empowered many artists.
I remember very clearly the first Bacon I ever saw. My partner Joan Hills and I went to an Arts Council exhibition in the late Fifties and saw a small study of a snarling figure in a herringbone tweed overcoat. I was writing poems at the time. I was enormously impressed by the reality of the picture, not the realism, but the reality ofthe paint and the image, and the assault on the senses. The phrase used by Bacon, in an interview with David Sylvester, says it much better than I can, when he refers to ‘the brutality offact’. I walked out of the gallery determined to become a painter.
Andrew Brown, 369 Gallery
I think he’s the most over-rated artist ofthe century. He’ll be forgotten in a very short time. He did some interesting work right at the beginning ofhis career, but his position as a ‘great‘ artist is totally fraudulent — it’s been manufactured over the last twenty years by the Marlborough Gallery, who are in the business of manufacturing public art. For copyists, for people who aren’t sure where they are going, for people who were deciding to change from abstraction to expressionism looked to Bacon to do so because he was an easy answer out; it’s a mannerism, it‘s easy to smudge the canvas, do a
bit in detail then a bit freely — an easy way out. It’s a dreadful mistake as well, because Bacon is so idiosyncratic he‘s a sure disaster for anyone that follows him. But that‘s exactly why he has his followers, because he’s so eccentric. He‘s essentially an amateur, and his personal nightmare might have been convincing in the Forties. but not later on.
The strange thing is, he was particularly influenced by Scottish art: he told me twenty years ago he learned everything he knew about painting from Robert Colquhoun. Everything. You can actually see that in all his painting; I think Bacon is a pernicious influence on British art. I don’t rate him at all.
Joan Benton, President, Scottish
Society of Women Artists
I’m very keen on him, and he has made an enormous contribution to the art world. A pioneer. He is a very male artist, but I don’t think women have a problem in coping with his art. He has actually influenced women artists ofrepute. Art is universal, it’s not sexist.
Edith Simon, sculptor
As far as I’m concerned, Francis Bacon’s chiefcontribution is to reintroduce outright pain, that is, unsoftened by aesthetic frills, to admissible establishment art; and to show the addictive potential of something basically repellent. say like Camembert. As regards inﬂuence, I don’t think I’ve ever been consciously influenced by him, but one never knows — it’s possible that, both with me and others, his work helped us to release an element offantasy, ofallegorical fantasy. which had been very much in abeyance until he appeared on the scene.
Ian Hughes, ex-Artist-in Residence, Gallery at Modern Art.
The importance of Francis Bacon for me is that he holds the view that an artist is an irritant to society. that he challenges opinion as to what art is actually about. He’s one of the few living artists who manages to steer clear ofwhat I call the English disease ofpretty aesthetics. he challenges it in the fields of morality and philosophy. and takes it onto a higher plane. He is definitely one of the greatest British artists alive today. And he‘s very much a one-off. an individual, there’s no real path to follow - I think that‘s also very important.
His personal influence on me is to do with the role that the artist should take: the idea that the artist is a gambler, takes high risks. Also the view that areas of paint — colour, texture - react with the viewer, become part of the nervous system. One thing we definitely have in common is the realisation that in some ways one of the most powerful symbols for approaching the whole ofsociety is in fact the outsider; but I see my work as being much more sympathetic to those figures. ‘Francis Bacon’ is at the Barbizon Gallery, Glasgow, 5—28 Apr.
Mr Nast v Mr Nice
Over three days last week a bizarre Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB) conference took place in Glasgow. Hilary Robinson braved the grey suits of‘Arts without Frontiers: 1992 and beyond”. suffered Roger Scruton, discussed the issues with Michael Ignatieff. and was in no doubt about which she preferred.
about their attitude towards the cultural workers ofthe country and the minorities within it.
Scruton is the editor of the right-wing .S‘alishury Rt’l‘lt‘lt'. Professor at Birkbeck ('ollegc. and close friend of the ex-Tylarxist. now Radical Right editor of Modern Painters. Peter Fuller. Scruton already has a wide platform from which to air his views; it was obvious what line he would take here. He said that he didn‘t believe in public funding or state cultural policies. unless it was ‘to renew local culture which has now become saturated with the art ofothercountries'. nationalism was not a threat. but
Everyone‘s worst fears and theories about the cultural administration of Britain are confirmed. When you attend a conference that purports to be about the breaking down of cultural barriers. but you find that the hierarchical structure ofthe event is so fixed that there is little room for discussion; when you find that the price (£178) excludes most artists and grassroots workers: when you find that the organisation has excluded from speaking those who are most qualified to speak about the nature ofboundaries; and when the Arts Council add insult to injury by having Roger Scruton as the first speaker. a clear message is received
The List 23 March — 5 April 199057