16 Mar 2010

One-Way Through the Looking Glass [67] Francis Bacon Lying Figure in a Mirror, 1971. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

by Corry Shores
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[I am profoundly grateful to the source of this image:
Credits given at the end.]

[The following is quotation. My commentary is bracketed in red.]

One-Way Through the Looking Glass

Francis Bacon

Lying Figure in a Mirror, 1971

Painting 32 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [67] of the English translation
and Painting [32] of the Seuil 2002 French

The body enters the mirror and lodges itself inside it, itself and its shadow. Hence the fascination: nothing is behind the mirror, everything is inside it [63, 67]. The body seems to elongate, flatten, or stretch itself out in the mirror, just as it contracted itself by going through the hole. (Deleuze 2003: 13ab)

Le corps passe dans le miroir, il s'y loge, lui-même et son ombre. D'où la fascination : il n'y a rien derrière le miroir, mais dedans [47, 32]. Le corps semble s'allonger, s'aplatir, s'étirer dans le miroir, tout comme il se contractait pour passer par le trou. (Deleuze 2002: 25bc)

In the end, there are only coupled Figures in Bacon (the Lying Figure in a Mirror of1971 [67] has to be unique; it counts as two Figures, it is a veritable diagram of sensation). (Deleuze 2003: 47b)

À la limite, il n'y a que des Figures accouplées chez bacon (la « Figure couchée dans un miroir » de 1971 a beau être unique, elle vaut pour deux, c'est un véritable diagramme de sensations). (Deleuze 2002: 66bc)

[Often in Bacon's paintings we see a shape of some kind wrapped around the figure. In this case it is the mirror frame.

(Again, thank you very much

It serves to isolate the figure, and apply pressure upon it, if you will, which our eyes might sense if their motions feel constricted or limited by the shape. Deleuze says that Bacon's mirrors do not reflect images. In this case, the figure is found in the mirror, and it is elongated as if it had to stretch itself to fit through some hole in order to cross over.

Bacon also often 'couples' figures, either by mangling them together, or by placing them near one another all while isolating them in such a way that no narrative explanation could be given to explain how they might relate to one another.

One way that Bacon entangles two figures is by making a random gesture of some sort with the paint. This could be splattering, smearing, brushing or the like. These new and unpredictable alterations suggest many new ways to develop the painting. Bacon reads the markings like a diagram indicating the many incompatible ways he may take the work. These new directions of development do not yet extend on the canvass. However, they are virtually and really there, not extending, but intending: they are intensities.

One figure on its own would affect us in a continuously varying way. Perhaps it shocks or confuses us more-or-less at a certain point while viewing it. The other figure, on its own, likewise produces such a varying affection. Bacon's diagramming technique is noteworthy here for this reason: it contracts the two varying affections so that we sense them simultaneously, all while each maintains its individuality.

Now, in this work, we see that the figure is not coupled.

(My thanks again

Deleuze writes that this is not a coupled figure, and yet it is still a diagram of sensation. Perhaps he means the following. Recall how Bacon might for example smear the paint in a certain region, and that produces a multiplicity of tendencies for the paintings development. Because they did not extend, they were intensities. Now, while viewing the figure, my eyes move from place-to-place as if I were watching a particle of debris swimming randomly through water. What I think makes my eyes continue to move is that with each gaze, it feels as though I could regard the work in another way, or that I am regarding it two ways at once. And also like the floating debris, it seems my gaze is being drawn many directions at once, changing directions at random. So, Deleuze says this figure should be considered coupled, because it is a diagram of sensation. Perhaps it is a diagram because it injects a random influence on our sensations, causing them to be intensively pushed-and-pulled in many directions at once, like the multiplicity of developmental directions that the painted diagram suggests. And perhaps it is coupled because as an effect of that, it seems as though we are looking at more than one figure at once, on account of our regarding it in more than one way each moment.]

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.

Image obtained gratefully from:

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