Friday, 7 December 2012


Francis Bacon :: Five Decades. At the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

There will always be a difference when you compare looking at photographs (even hi-res ones) of pieces of art in a catalogue/magazine/book and viewing them in real life but I've never experienced such a marked distinction until we went to the Francis Bacon show yesterday! And I'm not talking about to-be-expected revelations like "Oh, the blue on the painting is a slightly different blue in that photograph of the painting!" or appreciating the nuances in his brushstrokes up-close. Having seen his paintings (all on a much larger scale than I had thought they were) at such close range has completely changed my mind about his art!

See, I've always thought that his paintings are too "dark". Sombre colours. Distorted figures. The sort of paintings that, if they were hanging in my home, would freak me out in the night. I don't know what it was about seeing the paintings "live" but I no longer felt like their "darkness" was going to envelope me and swallow me whole. As we moved from painting to painting, I was surprised (so was the boyfriend who knows I'm not a fan) to find that they evoked a strange kind of joy, that they are actually pretty happy (to me) paintings. I blame the flatness of those photographs of his works that I've seen. The real pieces have "life" which makes them less "dark"? I'm finding it hard to put into words but you'll know what I mean when you see them.

And you should! It's a thoughtfully-curated exhibition (watch the making-of videos in the last room of the exhibition!) of his pieces borrowed from all over the world. I love how they've grouped the works into decades (as all retrospective-type shows should be done, I think. Thematic grouping confuses me!). It's a bit like getting into the head of the artist, to see his influences, his muse, recurring themes and his techniques change or remain constant in a chronological flow.

Go during the week if you can (less people = more enjoyment!). And get the Sydney International Art Pass (tickets to two exhibitions at a discount) if you're planning to see the soon-to-be-opened Anish Kapoor show too.

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