Tag Archives: gallery

The story of Bacon’s studio

ks317ks3222Well, the story is simple, yet it remains, as for my current knowledge without a precedent in the contemporary art history. It goes like this:

At 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London; at the last floor in a shabby, industrial-looking building Francis Bacon has lived and worked for the last thirty years of his life (1961-1992). It was there, where a big chunk of his works of had been created – in solitude and in the ‘ordered chaos”, as he would call the towering pandemonium of his workshop.

John Edwards, the artist’s old companion became a heir of the space (and its contents) and after its main occupant’s sudden death, he has donated Bacon’s studio to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Contemporary Art in Dublin. For three long years art historians and conservators, supported by archeologists were documenting, removing and reconstructing every inch of the room and every bit of dirt in the new ‘home’.

In May 2001 the studio was open to the public, drawing significant numbers of visitors – art students/researchers/admirers to the gallery. However, some bitter discussions and arguments has sustained for years over that ‘transplantation’ as London’s art world – never truly giving any credit to Bacon’s Irish roots (artist was born in Dublin, then moved to London in his teens) had to swallow a bitter pill indeed, after Edwards had decided against everyone’s expectations (of leaving the treasure where it was). Irony adds a grotesque element to the whole story – the perpetrator of the mess, the painter himself had nothing to do with all that phenomenon germinating as happily and unstoppably as the mould has been in his beloved studio. He remained loyal to it despite numerous offers of much better (objectively speaking) locations, and never truly concerned what will happen to it after he’s gone.

But, what is that phenomenon all about? Does it exist at all beyond the claustrophobic circle of Bacon’s fans and London-Dublin microcosm of the local politics? What is the matter – after all?

A relatively tiny attic space, gray and dark, with no widows except of a skylight. Its contents – beyond any description (hence photos). Treated with awe, respect and a sort of a silenced admiration which one adopts facing a great artwork. Is Bacon’s Studio an artwork on its own? There are many, who have never doubted it… If so – can a significant artwork be created without its creator’s conscious will, sometimes – even against it; as Bacon would ‘fight’ his chaos from time to time, removing a part of the mess? What sort of the methodological and aesthetic tools one needs to approach ‘an artwork’ of this kind? Questions just keep flowing raising some controversial issues on the nature of art, its very core/sense/meaning…

I remember seeing it at Hugh Lane, with a long, elegant corridor of a very well-behaved art decorating the walls leading to it – the contrast was almost sublime, yet – all the project of that post-mortem ‘repatriation’ seemed pointless to me, even cruel for some reason. Great artist’s spirit locked in a maze of his belongings was right there – mocking mercilessly all the ‘gentile’ surroundings, yet – paying an unfairly high price at the same time – the price of being the perfect stranger, the alien “Other”… Packed in a sterile cage of a gallery’s room like a bizarre gift and a trophy for the visitors – that intensely private (Bacon would never let anyone to enter this space, except the closest friends), and – must say – profoundly moving and in a deep sense beautiful room seemed like the loneliest, the most misunderstood space within the art-world. An amusing ‘freak-show’ for some, a perfect epitome of the genius-artist’s workshop for many…

What else can be said – would you ever consider a couple of your old socks, you’ve had used as wipes  becoming a gallery/collection jewel?… would you ever give a thought, that your online ‘studio’ – your ‘e-space’ may look as madly creative, legendary and desired to ‘possess’ by dozens as 7 Reece Mews had been? Would you… this makes all the art-creating business even more interesting… Doesn’t it – after all?…

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Both photos above of F. Bacon’s studio by Perry Ogden; scanned by me from 7 Reece Mews; Francis Bacon’s Studio, Thames and Hudson, London, 2001.


Contemporary Art (1) – Elliot Hundley

Elliot Hundley lives and works in Los Angeles; right after finishing his MA in Fine Art in 2005 he had rocketed to a sort of a local celebrity (see the appraisal of the artist in the Herald Tribune). Yet, his talent has been noticed beyond the ‘family’ ground and he enjoyed few interesting projects/exhibitions in 2006 and 2007. Especially the one in Andrea Rosen’s Gallery in New York has captured my attention due its unconventional, fresh appeal (visit the show here). In 2008/2009 program of the Saatchi Gallery in London Hundley’s work has been placed into the “Upcoming exhibitions” and “Abstract America: New Painting from the US” section and one can see his works with this pleasant critical brief:

Mining the nostalgic and sentimental qualities of his eclectic materials, Elliott Hundley’s collages create condensed ‘dreamscapes’, entwining the personal and symbolic into friable mythologies. Hundley engages with the dramatic in the staged emotiveness of his structures and in the performative element of their intensive making process. (…)Using formalism as a platform for narrative structure, Hundley’s exquisitely delicate consternation transforms the act of looking into an adventure of exploration and discovery. (see the artist’s page at Saatchi)

Well, fair for him. Looks like the recently lost in flesh and body Rauschenberg’s spirit lives on (R. Rauschenberg has died in May, 2008;) and its rebelliously exuberant impact continues to inspire artists of the youngest generation (either consciously or via different mediate sources).

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E. Hundley’s profile opens the new series of “Terra Incognita” on the “Contemporary Art” (artists, painting, movements, tendencies) I hope to keep and develop persistently. By the “Contemporary Art” I mean the art created now – 2009/2008, going back to the first years of the new century, and reaching towards the second decade in various plans/projects. I’ve just realized that one’s responsibility for the proper art studying as well as for the self-development requires the continuous self-updating, deepen recognition and the critical evaluation of the art world as it appears to be here and now. It’s substantially more difficult than, for example, reflecting on ‘closed’ biographies of established artists and artistic phenomena; yet – it tends to be highly rewarding – one can gain some confidence and support for his/her own unresolved riddles and struggles.

As my more loyal, attentive readers may notice; my own artistic practice has been gravitating towards the – Hundley -like expression; it’s encouraging and satisfying to find similar artwork being created, recognised and cherished. One feels stronger in the choices he/she has made. I still remember a sort of horror facing my own work in its monstrous, chaotic appearance. This latest discovery of mine of alike artistic expression (Hundley’s work online) is like an award for all the hardship I’ve endured for this simple reason – to be as honest and brave as I could have afforded.

Art is a majestic, noble force – it forgives and bears everything except boredom and over-timidness of the spirit. And once revolutionary and mastered propositions do come back – it doesn’t have to mean, that no truly new expression is possible or that art is dying out of an excess of its metaphors and epitomes – but that it equals, if not surpasses the great Nature in its eternally self-regenerating, circular and always powerfully creative, life-giving existence…

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London, London…

I’ve just had a privilege to visit some compelling exhibitions and collections in this beautiful city spread along Tames banks. In the next few posts I am going to reflect on those few events, which especially caught my attention and which keep to feed my memory with an inspiration.

Eight major exhibitions in five different places, two long walks by evening lights, three nights in a nice, vibrant student’s accommodation, almost four days in the city of J.M.W. Turner – that was an intensely stimulating, recommendable experience.

London is a grand, wisely-handled and gorgeously designed metropolis. Though its “Englishness” has been completely diluted by a multicultural collage of incomers, one can still notice this typically British sense of order, respect towards laws, exemplary manners, a bit of eccentricity and an admiration of arts. Galleries and museums of London host the most stunning collections there are – the proud inheritance of the centuries of a care and efforts (someone ironic enough could say that actually – there is very little ‘English’ in the British most worshiped art temples – a great amount of the artworks has been found, bought and/or … grabbed overseas during England long conquering escapades). Along with the guests, one can see the exhibitions’ spaces packed with dozens of the ‘locals’ eager to experience, what is the ‘new’ in their precious places. Guards in the National Gallery could compete with policemen surrounding tightly the House of Parliaments in their forbidding looks – one could imagine them protecting endangered masterpieces with their own bodies…

Visit then London now, even for a while – to see ancient and absolutely amazing art of Byzantium, dazzling works of Babylon, Rothko’s and Bacon’s major shows, then – permanently there paintings of Masaccio, Mantegna, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Holbein, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Monet, van Gogh and others – all in one place…


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