Friday, December 05, 2008

Raw, unmediated Bacon

"There is an area of the nervous system", Bacon believed, "to which the texture of [oil] paint communicates more violently than anything else." Paintings (some paintings anyway) could mysteriously "unlock the valves of sensation" or of "intuition and perception about the human situation"; could, by seemingly subliminal means, evoke a memory trace of raw, unmediated existence. Somewhere behind this lay Baudelaire and Proust, with their different ideas of involuntary memory. But for Bacon (who also liked to cite Paul Valéry: "modern man wants the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance"), to unlock the valves of his own subconscious was to bring up onto the canvas and "onto the [viewer's] nervous system" an apprehension of life or "being-aliveness" as violent, primordial struggle, redeemed only by an instinctive grace, or a stroke of luck.
From Alan Jenkins' review of the Bacon show at Tate Britain. Thinking against the impulse to assume from this that content or subject matter is a guarantor of such apprehension (what we might call The Illusion at 3AM), I'm reminded of Beckett's quarter essay on Joyce: "His writing is not about something; it is that something itself."

1 comment:

  1. One could argue, and it would seem fairly incontrevertible, that that "something itself" proves the existence of the spiritual as a genuine aspect of consciousness. The essence of great art of this nature, such as Bach's Matthew's Passion, is not a religious world that it points towards; the music is itself religious. This music cannot simply be said to be 'about' an idea that is religious, but which may not exist; it is an emanation of an interior reality of the mind that is itself religious. If you removed all knowledge of the context, the significant inner substance would still remain.
    The human mind can conceive of imaginary physical realities, but this cannot be said of psychological/emotional states which if capable of conception must be real, as the mind cannot create beyond itself in these terms. And the emotional essence of Matthew's Passion, Mozart's Requiem, etc as an emanation of the artists's consciousness...



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