Francis Bacon

!!to be further elaborated as I finalise Assignments 4 and 5

Francis Bacon’s edgy, visceral paintings tapping the unconscious a key source of inspiration for:

Quotations from the videos below:

We do with our lives what we can. And then we die. What else is there?

If anything ever does work in my case chance, and what I call ‘accident’ takes over.

Gamble everything on the next brush stroke…different strokes trying to do something else then develop themselves

How are you going to trap reality? How are you going to trap an appearance without making an illustration of it?

  • Colour of meat is beautiful

Issues for my printmaking:

  • Feeling the form as it emerges – particularly with monoprint or inking collagraph plates. One thing can turn into another.
  • Can work from photographs for portraits. But observe – Bacon could not draw.
  • Shadows do not need to relate to a subject – making them different can create considerable tension
  • his tryptichs ‘don’t relate to each other, but they play off one another…the balance seems better with three’

 

Key images

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944 The work’s exhibition in April 1945 coincided with the release of the first photographs and film footage of the Nazi concentration camps. (Tate Modern website)
Triptych August 1972. This work is generally considered one in a series of Black Triptychs which followed the suicide of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer. Dyer appears on the left and Bacon is on the right. The central group is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Edward Muybridge, but also suggests a more sexual encounter. The seated figures and their coupling are set against black voids and the central flurry has been seen as ‘a life-and death struggle’. (Tate Modern website)
Study for a self-portrait. Also known as Businessman I 1952 or Man’s Head 1952

Other paintings

 1940s

Man in a Cap

Videos

BBC documentary

Tate Gallery Retrospective with words from Francis Bacon spoken by John Hurt

BBC Archive film

His last interview

Works set to music

Resources and references

Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville’s extremely tactile approach to painting women’s bodies, including her own, as a feminist critique of the way the female nude has been portrayed by the male art establishment has influenced my work in:

Assignment 2: The Human Condition 2: Flesh Here my focus is on the tactility of the body and ways in which different types of paper eg wrinkled blotting paper or tracing paper give different body textures. As well as meanings of different shapes.

Assignment 4: Abstract Self-Portrait (forthcoming)

Assignment 5: Memory? (forthcoming influenced by Aleppo)

“The way to change peoples’ attitudes is just to do it.”

“The struggle is part of making things work”

“Try to create a balance of being unbalanced”

References and resources

Gray, J., L. Nochlin, D. Sylvester and S. Schama (2005?). Jenny Saville. New York, Rizzoli.

Google images

Katy Cowan (2018) “A major exhibition of works by British artist Jenny Saville to launch in Edinburgh” Creative Boom

Videos below

Key points for my printmaking:

  • She works from photos and sketches, not painting from live models
  • She plays with colours and composition in Photoshop
  • Some of her paintings use text – following the example of feminist photographers like Jo Spence
  • Mixing red and cyan on flesh creates tension because we do not know how to read it.
  • Body as narrative of traces, a copperplate to be etched on – possibilities for over-printing
  • Cut out the shape of a body and draw around and over it, then remove the mask. Keep going till you have something believable.

Videos

Jenny Saville discussing her painting process in 2018 in relation to the All Too Human exhibition at Tate Britain. This is a detailed discussion of her working process and evolution as an artist. She is interested in:

  • Relationship between ‘how you are’ and ‘how you are seen’ eg in work on plastic surgery, people saw themselves as ill because they did not have the nose or breasts they wanted. They saw surgery as enabling them to be their ‘real self’.
  • Paint as vocabulary and anatomy of paint traces from Pollock and de Kooning and document of the process of making

 

Earlier interview with Jenny Saville, focussing particularly on her recent work with its interest in time and traces, multiple figures and memory.

Aleppo

in exhibition ‘All Too Human’ pieta of people carrying bodies out from war zones. she used lots of photographs of a woman in burqa and lots of bodies.

Jenny Saville Aleppo

“I have been working on Pietas [depictions of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ] quite a bit, and a series of children being carried.

“Over 20 years I have collecting images of babies being carried out of bombings, war situations, in Pieta poses knowing that one day I will do a piece, so this work has been a long time in the making.

“Aleppo is the first one I have released like it.

“I have done paintings linked to war before, but not linked to a political situation – I have endless images from the internet, or from newspapers, of babies that have been killed in these bombings, and when I finished the piece, I have two children myself, how long will it be before we as humans know not to do this?

“When I was titling it, I thought I would link it – for the first time – to what is going on in Syria.

Interview with Phil Miller for Scottish Sunday Herald

Music Video of more of her paintings

Hughie O’Donoghue

O’Donoghue was born in England but lived and worked for many years in County Kerry, Ireland. He graduated from Goldsmiths in 1982 and was Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, London from 1984-85.

His work is characterised by an engagement with the past. He uses figuration and abstraction to explore themes of human identity, memory, remembering and experience; and draws on history, mythology and personal records to create works which resonate with emotional intensity.

His printmaking includes very large carborundum plates of figures. He mixes fine grain carborundum, acrylic paste and black acrylic paint. He paints this on the plate with a thick brush, wiping off and reworking the image on the plate before it dries. This makes a complex, multi-layered texture. He often uses aluminium plates. Prints on thick Arches paper.

Hughie O’Donoghue installation at IMMA  2009

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The Measure of All Things Introduction

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‘The Road’

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Lost Histories

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‘Artists never completely control the meaning of their work’

Artist’s Laboratory Royal Academy 2005  review

The Measure of all Things Westminster Abbey 2014

bbc your paintings page

Ibrahim El-Salahi

Ibrahim el-Salahi  (1930 – present) is a Sudanese artist painter and former politician and diplomat.He is considered a pioneer in Sudanese art. He developed his own style and was one of the first artists to elaborate the Arabic calligraphy in his paintings.

website: http://ibrahimsalahi.com

Google images

Ibrahim El Salahi Interview Tate Modern, July 2013

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African Art on Display at London’s Tate Modern

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Starts with in-depth interview with El-Salahi on his experiences in 1970s.

Tate Shots exhibition overview
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Ibrahim El Salahi Focus on Africa BBC World

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Development of his art

El-Salahi was born on September 5, 1930, in Omdurman, Sudan. He studied Art at the School of Design of the Gordon Memorial College, currently the University of Khartoum. On the basis of a scholarship, he subsequently went to the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1954 to 1957. He also stayed in Perugia in Italy for some time, to enlarge his knowledge of renaissance art. Back in Sudan, he taught at the School for Applied Arts in Khartoum.

In 1950s, 1960s and 1970s his work is dominated by elementary forms and lines. When El-Salahi returned to Khartoum to teach at the Technical Institute in 1957, he became one of the lead artists in a movement known as the ‘Khartoum School.’ Having gained its freedom from British colonial rule only one year previously, Sudanese artists were trying to define a new artistic voice and means of expression for the country. Yet when he held an exhibition of his work from the Slade at the Grand Hotel in Khartoum, Salahi’s academic style was uniformly rejected. Salahi took some time out from painting to travel around the country to seek inspiration. Here, the influence of Arabic calligraphy, which he had learned as a young child, became more pronounced in his painting, as he began to integrate Islamic signs and scripts into his compositions. Speaking of this era, the artist himself said:

‘The years 1958-1961 were a period of feverish activity on my part in search of individual and cultural identities […] Those years, as it turned out, were the years of transformation and transformation that I went through as far as my work was concerned.’

In 1962 he received a UNESCO scholarship to the United States, from where he visited South America. From 1964 to 1965 he returned to the US with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, and in 1966 he led the Sudanese delegation during the first World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

Self-Portrait of Suffering (1961) is one of his best-known works from this time. The distended face that becomes almost equine, the dry brush marks and muted palette, show influence of Picasso, who himself appropriated distorted facial features from West African masks. The inability to trace the visual language to a root source is an articulate allegory for the artists’ sense of creative displacement at this time. Other works, such as Reborn Sound of Childhood Dreams (1961-5), integrated the crescent, a motif of Islamic art that recurred frequently throughout his work. El-Salahi also explored the formal properties of paint. Some canvases are incredibly heavy, with a thick impasto crust of paint (Victory of Truth (1962); Dry Months of the Fast (1962)); others with such thin layers of paint the image barely sits above the canvas, such as Vision of the Tomb (1965), crisp detail echoes traditional Arabic miniature painting.

After working for the Sudanese Embassy in Britain for a time in the early 1970s, El-Salahi was offered the position of Deputy Under Secretary of Culture at the Ministry of Information in Sudan under the military dictatorship of General Gaafar Nimeiry. After a failed military coup in which a relative was implicated, he was arrested in 1975, accused of anti-government activities and incarcerated for just over six months. El-Salahi is a Muslim of a Sufi sect, and during this trying time he discovered that the harrowing conditions he was subjected to could be escaped only through his deep spirituality. This was, according to the artist, a time of great personal change. The quiet pen and ink drawings and prose that make up Prison Notebook show a period of introspection and self-examination, with linear and fluid gestures that skirt tentatively across the page.

Upon his release, the artist relocated to Qatar. His work becomes rather meditative, abstract and organic. Subsequently his work is characterized by lines, while he mainly uses white and black paint.

In the late 1980s, El-Salahi began to absorb more of the forms of futurist figures. Still using a pen, his figures become machine-like, solid and heavy, composed of lines, tangents, and geometric shapes. The interlocking ellipses of Boccioni can be found in compositions such as The Inevitable (1984-85), and Female Tree (1994), and dense cross-hatched lines cement the image to its support.

TateShots: Ibrahim El-Salahi’s ‘The Inevitable’

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Often considered El-Salahi’s masterpiece, The Inevitable was first conceived by the artist during his wrongful imprisonment. Deprived of paper, El-Salahi would sketch out plans for future paintings on the back of small cement casings, before burying them in the sand whenever a guard would come near. Working in this manner led to the artist developing a new style, one seen in The Inevitable, where a painting spreads out from what he refers to as the ‘nucleus’, or the germ of an idea, with a meaning hidden even from the artist himself until the work is finished. Only when he saw The Inevitable completed did El-Salahi realise how clear the message was; that people must rise up and fight tyranny and those that suppress them. This was something he felt was relevant not just to his own life when he created the work in the mid-eighties, but to all of Sudan.

When in 1998 El-Salahi moved to Oxford, this new interest in bold geometric lines was pushed further. Using the english countryside as his subject, he began using vertical parallel lines to describe the form of a tree across a series of paintings and drawings. The use of geometric shapes to evoke natural forms perhaps harks back to the Islamic tradition of using geometric pattern to describe the order of the world. Yet through the prism of El-Salahi’s oeuvre, works such as Tree (2008) become Mondrian-esque divisions of canvas, panels of colour against white, that are nonetheless representational.

Many of his compositions suggest painting as meditation or a means of transcendance. Often praying before beginning to work, he says he has little control over the final image on the canvas; the creation of his works becomes almost an autodidactic gesture. Unlike so many established painters, who in later life fall into a distinct, comfortable style, El-Salahi continues to experiment and test himself and his art, integrating Western and Sudanese influences, exploring the boundaries of visual language and transcending a fixed cultural identity.

Rebecca Jagoe: Ibrahim El-Salahi: Painting in Pursuit of a Cultural Identity

Njideka Akunyili

website: http://njidekaakunyili.com

Google images

Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s complex, multi-layered works reflect contemporary transcultural identity drawn from the artist’s memories and experiences.  Her large-scale figurative compositions combine drawing, painting and collage on paper.  She uses the visual language and inherited traditions of classical academic western painting, particularly the portrait and still life but combines these with collage of colours and textures that give them an African identity.

She portrays images of family and friends, in scenarios with details derived from everyday domestic experiences in Nigeria and America. These include recollections from the formative years of her upbringing, as well as more recent relationships and experiences. Her work often features an element of self-portrait, as in a series of intimate scenes of the artist with her husband made in the early years of their marriage. Her collaged paintings present a compelling visual metaphor for the layers of personal memory and cultural history that inform and heighten the experience of the present.

Biography

Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983 and lived there lived until the age of sixteen. In 1999 she moved to Los Angeles, where she has remained since that time. Her cultural identity combines strong attachments to the country of her birth and to her adopted home, a hybrid identity that is reflected in her work.

Technique

She complements and enhances her paintings by carefully chosen and integrated collage elements, predominantly acetone-transfer prints of small photographic images. Some of these images are from the artist’s archive of personal snapshots, magazines and advertisements, while others are sourced from the internet; they feature images with a thematic resonance to each particular work.

Source Victoria Miro website

Inspiration for my own practice

It would be interesting to try chine colle for more figurative work like this – using ready printed African textured papers under linocut would work well. Though it would require a lot of preparation and planning to get the collages elements properly in place.