28 Jan 2010

Scraped Landscape [2] Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series. Figure in a Landscape, 1945

by Corry Shores
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[The following is quotation. My commentary is in brackets.]

Scraped Landscape
Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

Francis Bacon

Figure in a Landscape, 1945

Painting 7 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [2] of the English translation
and Painting [58] of the Seuil 2002 French

What fills the rest of the painting will be neither a landscape as the correlate of the Figure, nor a ground from which the form will emerge, nor a formless chiaroscuro, a thickness of color on which shadows would play, a texture on which variation would play. Yet we are moving ahead too quickly. For there are indeed, in Bacon's early works, landscape-Figures like the Van Gogh of 1957 [23]; there are extremely shaded textures, as in Figure in a Landscape (1945) [2]. (Deleuze, 2003: 3bc)

Ce qui remplit le reste du tableau, ce ne sera pas un paysage comme corrélat de la figure, ni un fond dont surgirait la forme, ni un informel, clair-obscur, épaisseur de la couleur où se joueraient les ombres, texture où se jouerait la variation. Nous allons trop vite pourtant. Il y a bien, ou début de l'oeuvre, des Figures-paysages comme le Van Gogh de 1957 ; il y a des textures extrêmement nuancées, comme « Figure dans un Paysage » (Deleuze, 2002: 13d)

[Deleuze will later speak of the "shallow" or "superficial" depth in Bacon's paintings (p.83). The figure is not projected from the background, not does it blur into it. Rather, they are side-by-side. If the figure were to stand-out from the background, then there would be a visual depth to the painting. There would be space extending between the figure and the surrounding field. However, there is also another type of depth that is even deeper than extensive depth. There is an intensive depth, which does not extend in space. Deleuze also uses the medieval example of the white wall to explain. There are variations in the whiteness of the wall. As our eyes move from place-to-place along the white wall, we sense tendencies for the tone to change. (For more on Spinoza's white wall, see Deleuze, Cours Vincennes 10-03-1981, Expressionism in Philosophy Chapter 12 and Chapter 13). Those tendencies are found already in an indivisible point on the wall, just as calculus determines differential values at limits, which also can be thought of as tendencies for a curve to change. These tendencies do not yet actualize as extensive, qualitative differences. They are tendencies tending inward, that is to say, they are intensities. Bacon's paintings are flat, whether as figures scrambled into an adjacent indeterminate landscape, or as figures flat beside a mono-colored field. Either way, he may make use of the flatness' potential to express intensity, which produces sensations in us. Deleuze also writes that the scrambling we see in the landscape is a preparation for a technique he later employs: diagramming.

(Thanks wikipedia.org)

When Bacon diagrams, he begins with a formation, then scrambles part of it using chance-guided motions, like throwing the paint. This creates a painting that both causes us to try to make sense of it while that being an impossibility. We are continually confronted with differences upon differences, which causes us intense sensation. (For a more detailed explanation of diagramming, see this entry).]

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Transl. Daniel W. Smith. London/New York: Continuum, 2003.

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Seuil, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures. Paris: Editions de la différence [Littératures], 1981.

Images obtained gratefully from:

Also at the Tate site:

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