Friday, 2 January 2009

Teeth are the only bones that show


This is the final weekend of the Francis Bacon exhibition at Tate Britain. I saw it in the middle of December, to say the experience still haunts me is probably too strong an expression. However I was deeply affected by it and left feeling close to tears. Not with sadness, but overwhelmed by the power of Bacon's work. Since that visit I have returned to think about his work many times. His presentation of the human form in all its raw fleshiness was unlike any painting I have experienced before.

I went to see the exhibition feeling quite ambivalent: I didn't really know much about his work and it had never attracted me before. I think the the fact that the curators literally took the viewer on a chronological journey made the whole viewing experience all the more powerful. Each room represented a different time in his life and as you moved through the rooms you saw him returning again and again to his distinctive themes. A reoccurring subject being an open mouth, teeth painted with paint layers so thick that they became three dimensional. Save for the mouth, the rest of the body was completely distorted and abstract.

These powerful images made me wonder, if in all his fascination with the blood and flesh of our human bodies, Bacon was conveying something my friend Baby Dee wrote a song about: Teeth Are The Only Bones That Show.

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