CIV - Interview with Francis Bacon - The brutality of fact, by David Sylvester, comments by André Bandeira

This book, containing several interviews with the irish/british painter Francis Bacon, sheds some light on his career. Francis Bacon has something of a Picasso sketch on a Manet's scenario. I mean that he makes experiments with figures on a monochromatic scenario, but quite otherwise than Picasso, his figurations do not become an extrovert political demonstration. Nevertheless,  he dwells in a kind of distortion and simultaneity, printed on his figures, as moulding a sculpture of colours and reversing our concept of flesh and portrait integrity. That is why Bacon masters the organic tonalities, especially the ones of human entrails, which are ripped apart in an almost obsessive slaughterhouse, working round the clock under the cracking light. So, there is no «brutality of fact», as the subtitle argues. Francis Bacon is brutal, yes, but in his visions. He doesn't speak to faces, he tears them apart as an alien with little or no patience. Of course he tries to push all of us to the ground where judgement would sound awkward, taking into account the cosmological darkness of his scene-setting. At a certain point, he issues a doctrine: the only thing which will be remembered from a people far gone, that will be this people's main cultural achievements, no matter what they did cost in terms of inequality and human suffering. That is what he calls «Grand Art», which, as a matter of fact, he says would be unfeasible, without social inequality. Having said this, time is high to range Bacon as an icon of a certain distorted «culture», very much in fashion today. It is true that Margaret Thatcher talked about «Bacon's horrible pictures» but she didn't have a word for the horrid side-effects of her own designs and casts. It is sure that, albeit Bacon's erratic life and financial roller-coaster, he was also a consumate priviliged, full of inherited devices and with a plentiful ring of keys, pending from his waist. That is why he silver lined so many social showdowns where he occasionally found himself. Bacon's seemingly fragility, the track of his early relationships which put him often on the brink of self-anihilation, they amounted to be the best camouflage for his immensely monolithic discipline. When he distracts us by means of shocking narrations, Bacon pushes trough his agenda, the one that contends on the centrality of «fact». But there is another fact looming: the fact that he chooses facts such as two men having a monstruous intercourse on a bed, a young and disgraced partner reclining dead, on drugs and booze, cartridged in a water closet, as well as faces bluring under the night-life caleidoscope, that is a social canvassing that he coarsely whisks away. In the times of Marinetti, Bacon could well be a fascist, not the improbable revolutionary who began with wearing a black shirt, but the revengeful one, who just used fascism to further his agenda of social estrangement. All Bacon's falls, his frailty and scandalous behaviour are nothing more than a strategy for him to come out unscathed of the sewage where he took shelter. As a mater of fact, his canvasses are no bidimensional sculpture of reality where the organic interiors would unfold brutally, in daylight, as the «fact of life» he argued for. They indeed are accurate snapshots of a living hell, where the stronger, and the most rused, survive the ongoing slaughter of human perception, and Bacon is one of the officiants.   He is indeed, a good prototype of the anthropofagist who hides under a romantic uniform. If one thinks that his «Soho culture» is no political matter, but a social one, that is because one is ignoring how often extremism mingled together in the same political themes, preferebly in the brink, just to compulse the victim, before stabbing it at a close range, in the radical guise. Oscar Wilde did it, out of social revolt. Bacon did it, out of social contempt. This book is a kind of modern narration, as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: it should be caricatured as «Lord Bacon of Oxford and the unfortunate Dyer».