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quinta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2008

Interviews (2)

David Sylvester - Most of your paintings have been of single figures or single heads, but in the new Crucifixion triptych you've done a composition with several figures. Would you like to do that more often?

Francis Bacon - I find it so difficult to do one figure that that generally seems enough. And, of course, I've got an obsession with doing the one perfect image.

DS - Which would have to be a single figure?

FB - In the complicated stage in which painting is now, the moment there are several figures — at any rate several figures on the same canvas — the story begins to be elaborated. And the moment the story is elaborated, the boredom sets in; the story talks louder than the paint. This is because we are actually in very primitive times once again, and we haven't been able to cancel out the story-telling between one image and another.

DS - And it is true that people have been trying to find a story in the Crucifixion triptych. Is there in fact any explanation of the relationship between the figures?

FB - No.

DS - So it's the same thing as when you've painted heads or figures inside a sort of space-frame and it's been supposed that you were picturing someone imprisoned in a glass box.

FB - I use that frame to see the image — for no other reason. I know it's been interpreted as being many other things.

DS - Like when Eichmann was in his glass box and people were saying your paintings had prophesied this image.

FB - I cut down the scale of the canvas by drawing in these rectangles which concentrate the image down. Just to see it better.

DS - And it never ever had any sort of illustrative intention, not even in that painting of 1949 of a head with microphones?

FB - No, it was just to be able to see the face and the microphones more clearly. I don't think it's a satisfactory device especially; I try to use it as little as possible. But sometimes it seems necessary.

DS - And do the vertical breaks between the canvases of a triptych have the same sort of purpose as those frames within a canvas?

FB - Yes, they do. They isolate one from the other. And they cut off the story between one and the other. It helps to avoid story-telling if the figures are painted on three different canvases. Of course, so many of the greatest paintings have been done with a number of figures on a canvas, and of course every painter longs to do that. But, as the thing's in such a terribly complicated stage now, the story that is already being told between one figure and another begins to cancel out the possibilities of what can be done with the paint on its own. And this is a very great difficulty. But at any moment somebody will come along and be able to put a number of figures on a canvas.

DS - You may not want a story, but you certainly seem to want subjects with a lot of dramatic charge when you choose a theme like the Crucifixion. Can you say what impelled you to do the triptych?

FB - I've always been very moved by pictures about slaughter-houses and meat, and to me they belong very much to the whole thing of the Crucifixion. There've been extraordinary photographs which have been done of animals just being taken up before they were slaughtered; and the smell of death. We don't know, of course, but it appears by these photographs that they're so aware of what is going to happen to them, they do everything to attempt to escape. I think these pictures were very much based on that kind of thing, which to me is very, very near this whole thing of the Crucifixion. I know for religious people, for Christians, the Crucifixion has a totally different significance. But as a non-believer, it was just an act of man's behaviour, a way of behaviour to another.

David Sylvester in Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1975.

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