21 Mar 2010

Potty-Mouth Translations [73] Francis Bacon: Triptych, 1973. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

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

Potty-Mouth Translations

Francis Bacon: Triptych, 1973
Saul Sternberg Collection, New York

Painting 29 of Deleuze's Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [73] of the English translation, and
Painting [6] of the Seuil 2002 French

The entire series of spasms in Bacon is of this type: scenes of love, of vomiting and excreting [73], in which the body attempts to escape from itself through one of its organs in order to rejoin the field or material structure. (Deleuze 2003: 12ab)

Toute la série des spasmes chez Bacon est de ce type, amour, vomissement, excrément, toujours le corps qui tente de s'échapper par un de ses organes, pour rejoindre l'aplat, la structure matérielle [6]. (Deleuze 2002: 24a)

[Bacon's figures are often constrained by some enclosure. It applies pressure to the figure. Imagine squeezing a water-balloon. The water is forced outward and might escape through a break in the surface. In these paintings, the figure's insides escape through their bodily openings.]

Sometimes an animal, for example a real dog, is treated as the shadow of its master [52], or conversely, the man's shadow itself assumes an autonomous and indeterminate animal existence [73] (Deleuze 2003: 16a)

Il arrive qu'un animal, par exemple un chien réel, soit traité comme l'ombre de son maître [32]; ou inversement que l'ombre de l'homme prenne une existence animale autonome et indéterminée [6]. (Deleuze 2002: 28a)

[These forces acting on the figures' bodies cause them to deform and take on animal traits. In this case, the shadow escapes from the body in an animal-like form. Perhaps this shadow reminds us of a bat.]

But in the end, it is a movement "in place," a spasm, which reveals a completely different problem characteristic of Bacon: the action of invisible forces on the body (hence the bodily deformation, which are due to this more profound cause). In the 1973 triptych [73], the movement of translation occurs between two spasms, between the two movements of a contraction in one place. (Deleuze 2003: 30a)

Mais à la limite, c'est un mouvement sur place, un spasme, qui témoigne d'un tout autre problème propre à Bacon : l'action sur le corps de forces invisibles (d'où les déformations du corps qui sont dues à cette cause plus profonde). Dans le triptyque de 1973, le mouvement de translation est entre deux spasmes, entre deux mouvements de contraction sur place. (Deleuze 2002: 45c).

The horizontal can also be executed in a movement of translation, as in the 1973 triptych [73]: a horizontal translation in the center panel makes us move from the spasm on the right to the spasm on the left (here again we see that the order of succession, when there is one, does not necessarily go from left to right). (Deleuze 2003: 54c)

L'horizontale peut aussi être effectuée suivant un mouvement de translation, comme dans le triptyque de 1973 : une translation horizontale, au centre, nous fait passer du spasme de droite au spasme de gauche (là encore on voit que l'ordre de succession, quand il y en a un, ne va pas nécessairement de gauche à droite). (Deleuze 2002: 75bc)

The rising-descending, contraction-dilation, and systolic-diastolic oppositions cannot be identified with each other. A discharge, for example, is indeed a descent, as well as a dilation and expansion, but there is also a contraction in the discharge, as in the man at the washbasin [80] and the man on the toilet in the 1973 triptych [73]. (Deleuze 2003: 57a)

En effet, on ne peut pas identifier montée-descente et contraction-dilation, systole-diastole : par exemple l'écoulement est bien une descente, et aussi une dilation et expansion, mais il y a de la contraction dans l'écoulement, comme chez l'homme au lavabo et l'homme au bidet du tri triptyque de 1973. (Deleuze 2002: 77bc)

[The forces acting upon the figures cause them to spasm. But these spasms are not vibrations that happen over an extent of time. Rather, they are wrestling forces that push-and-pull the figure in many directions at once, simultaneously and instantaneously.

Composer Messiaen described what he called rhythmic characters. The active one acts upon the passive one, all while an attending observer witnesses the drama. (See the Messiaen section of this entry for more on rhythmic characters, and for even more detail, see this entry). Deleuze relates the attendant figure to horizontal forces in Bacon's paintings. In this case, we feel a movement from the right panel to the left, crossing horizontally through the center one.

Deleuze also classifies different force-oppositions in Bacon's works. We cannot reduce one to the other, but they may still coincide in the same figures, contracted together, but not dissolved into one. In this case, the door frames contract-upon the figures, and this contracting pressure is met with its opposing force, dilation: the bodies try to expand and escape through some bodily opening. As well, this expansion involves a descending force, as the figures' insides are shot downward.]

[The armature] can consist in the action of a very particular section of the field that we have not yet considered: the field occasionally includes a black section, sometimes quite localized (Pope No. II, 1960 [27]; Three studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 [29];Portrait of George Dyer Staring into a Mirror, 1967 [45]; Triptych, 1972 [70]; Portrait of a Man Walking down Steps, 1972 [68]), sometimes even flowing (Triptych, 1973 [73]), and sometimes total or constituting the entire field (Three Studies from the Human Body, 1967 [44]). (Deleuze 2003: 104c)

[l'armature peut] consister dans l'action d'une section très particulière de l'aplat que nous n'avons pas encore considérée : en effet, il arrive que l'aplat comporte une section noire, tantôt bien localisée (« Pape n° 2 » 1960 [45], « Trios études pour une crucifixion » 1962, « Portrait de George Dyer regardant fixement dans une miroir» 1967, « Triptyque » 1972, « Homme descendant l'escalier » 1972), tantôt même débordante (« Triptyque » 1973), tantôt totale ou constituant tout l'aplat (« Trois études d'après le corps human » 1967). (Deleuze 2002: 140c.d)

[Bacon's figures appear pinned-up to a flat background. They seemingly hover in their place, as though supported by something like an armature of a sculpture. Deleuze says that one sort of armature in Bacon's works is a black square. In this case, the square is flowing out from its linear bounds.]

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 quite gratefully from:

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

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