Tag Archives: studio

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.


Studying Art (11) – Studio Work or Chaos…

Please note:

Photos presented feature the below-mentioned efforts in my studio from September-December 2008. For my statement, concept, more images/descriptions – please visit “My Work” and my Flickr page.

It had started during the summer months – a sort of a rather noxious fermentation darkening slowly over time. On coming back to the college in September it has been intensified to an explosive degree 04by some rather complex personal troubles – one small trigger has freed all the anger, doubt, confusion and a sorrow. And I launched this academic year in a rather audacious manner (my big sorry to all of you there), by sending a clear message to my tutors and my friends: Do keep away.

Then I took off with a ceaseless frenzy of attacking my studio and corridor walls with a flood of images and all sorts of artifacts I managed to drag on a spot. Paint (oil) was used merely as an excuse to stick even more random pieces on it. And I took a pleasure in questioning and destroying all the artistic attempts I regarded as ‘successful’ to some extent, mocking and wasting away my ‘capital’ I managed to gain through the last year of study. To my surprise – the more anarchistic battles I provoked with art and with my surroundings, the more rudely I attempted to annihilate the commonly-accepted boundaries – the less and less opposition I felt, and more and more excited, positive response I got.05

Some of my viewers refused to stay at bay, where I put them, and I heard “Rauschenberg”, “DaDa”, “extravagance” – I shrugged my arms – So what? That my work was similar to that of one of the artistic idols (actually, I adore Rauschenberg’s myself) was of the least importance to me at that time – I was trying hard to make sense of the world around, of my entire life; and there was something really sad about that, that what my great audience had read as an exciting, artistic effort was, in a fact – a confused expression of a personal despair.

It took me weeks to gain some theoretical, sensible insight into my activities – and it all,  luckily for me, has ended in a self-assurance. Thanks to my background – the classical education and still respected values it proved to be impossible for me to ‘lose my mind’ – even if I would have made a lucid decision to do so (for a 06self-protection); so – there was always a clear method in that  ‘madness’, and even from the longest, the most scary and lonely spiritual journey I made I was able to come back on my own – stronger and smarter than before, or so I choose to think…

Though, it all would be much more difficult to achieve without the loyal, so understanding and wise support of my friends – manifested in various ways (so, do accept my gratitude, all of you, who know, what I’m writing here about – I’m indebted to your noble patience and the above-average openness of mind…) By the way , I must make this point – for an artist, especially the beginner or the one in a crisis – there can be nothing more precious and desirable than the intelligent audience ready to take on and even – to acclaim – all sorts of oddities, provocations, anti-art behaviours and silly games, the individual is pervertedly happy to display…

Those were truly stimulating months – and even if there were things I regret now and wouldn’t do having a chance to move the clock back – in general, I would have been disappointed with myself choosing any easier option. Through struggle and a passionate building up of a negative language I’ve reached to some of the ideas and ways of expression, which are well able to nourish my studies for some time. And the work that finally emerged showed me the art once again – in its most universal and glorious epitome – as a primordial force able to initiate, control and tame chaos of the both – the physical and the inner reality…

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Some benefits of keeping a ‘Studio Journal’…

  • First and foremost – to keep work alive with thinking/reflection
  • To preserve unique moments of a discovery
  • To preserve equally unique moments of a struggle/crisis
  • To learn from one’s own story
  • To exercise an insight and self-recognition
  • To learn self-discipline and persistence
  • To develop skill in a creative/accurate writing

By “Studio Journal” I mean any form of a written record of one’s own progress/actions in an artistic studio (by ‘studio’ I mean an actual workplace – wherever thinking/working takes place; it can be a gallery, trip, workshop, library). It can be kept in a form of a sketchbook, where drawings, work-samples, illustrations are included, however a special care should be taken for putting experiences into words… It’s slightly similar to maintaining a web-blog, however, more personal… It’s best rewarding when the discipline of regular notes (based on everyday, each two/three days frequency) is applied consistently.

I’ve been sustaining my own ‘Journal’ for a month as for now and must say – it’s got a power to surprise. I mean – reading my own two-weeks-old thoughts is sometimes like flying on another planet… But one important rule – one has to be honest – and a diary is a great lecture in honesty… On one day I wrote: ‘I’m not going to pretend that I have something interesting to say…” And sometimes is nothing more than that…

So, good luck with that – if you accept this challenge of mine…


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