Not That Kind of Bacon



       Easily one of my favourite painters of all time finally made a Canadian appearance.  The Art Gallery of Ontario partnered with Britain’s Ashmolean to bring together two British greats – Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. I won’t be going into anything on Moore (mostly because I spent my entire time at the gallery hopping from one Bacon masterpiece to the next), but I can appreciate the sculptor’s artistic genius.

       Bacon is one of those art giants you either love, or you love to hate.  Friends have asked me why I adore someone who works in such abysmal themes when I’m a relatively sunshine-y person.  I think the fact of the matter is that whether you love or hate him, everyone can identify with their own occasional dark feelings that plagued Bacon more than the average person.  Bacon makes you feel things that are real.  My heart breaks every time I get to the point in a book or film where George Dyer kills himself.  You can feel the love Francis had for him in the images he portrays (I see a distinct difference in this as compared to anything before or after … or not depicting … George).

       The British great is admittedly the one artist I have a bit of an obsession with – I’ve seen the documentaries, read everything I can get my hands on, and listened to the interviews with David Sylvester.  Unfortunately my artistic hero had never made a grand debut in my country, neither in his life or passing.  Imagine my excitement then when an email came to my inbox indicating that YES – He would finally arrive! After getting over my initial distaste about his having to share the spotlight, I  patiently awaited the arrival of those carefully wrapped masterpieces.

       When they finally skipped across the pond, I was in the middle of getting ready for exams.  I hesitatingly put off my venture (the exhibition, not being located in my hometown, would require some planning to attend), knowing I had a good amount of time before the pieces returned to their respective homes (the collection had gathered pieces from MOMA, the Tate, and private individuals, among others).

       All in a panic in the middle of May I realized my time was running thin.  My weekends had mostly been booked up for the ensuing month and I had to sort out a time to go.  At last it finally happened (the day before the exhibit closed, no less) – the drive to Toronto’s AGO was full of anticipation.  What did they manage to put together? Which eras had they captured?  Would I meet George Dyer in person (err … in paint in person)? I knew logically there was almost no way Three Studies of Lucien Freud would be there (responsible for netting Bacon the honour of being the highest price at auction for artwork – US$142.4 million, to be exact) but the thought of it still sent shivers down my spine.

       In the end the Freud triptych wasn’t there (sadface).  Screaming Popes were though.  As was the (reproduction of, urgh!) Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifiction.  I spent a solid half hour (at least) with each.  Almost every piece pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. I had never actually noticed before the fact that most (all?) of the rooms Bacon paints are round.  Or the fact that the tassels to draw the window shades were so present.  One can read into those what they will.

       Whether you love him or hate him, it can never be said that Francis Bacon didn’t give you something to think about.  Having the opportunity to stand in his presence has made me one satisfied art-lover, and I can’t wait to do it again (I’m coming for you, Tate).