Francis Bacon symposium: Bacon’s bodies
Perspectives on the continuing significance of the art of Francis Bacon
This symposium considers the body as subject, the physicality of painting and the continuing significance of Francis Bacon’s body of work. Speakers will address this theme in relation to Bacon’s material practice, his studio (now preserved at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane), as well as history, politics, food, and sexuality.
Anthony Bond, curatorial director at the Art Gallery of NSW and curator of the exhibition Francis Bacon: five decades
Bond’s many projects at the Gallery include the exhibitions and accompanying publications for Boundary rider: 9th Biennale of Sydney (1992–93), Body (1997) and Self-portrait: Renaissance to contemporary (2005–06). In 2009, he curated Mike Parr: Cartesian corpse at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.
Dr Nicholas Chare, lecturer in gender studies at the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
Chare’s book After Francis Bacon: synaesthesia and sex in paint was published by Ashgate in 2012.
Barbara Dawson, director of Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
Dawson secured the donation of Bacon’s studio and its contents for Dublin. She has contributed to many books on Bacon, most recently Francis Bacon and the existential condition in contemporary art (2012), and co-curated Francis Bacon: a terrible beauty (2009) with Martin Harrison – the first exhibition to specifically examine the artist’s processes and materials. She is also a partner in the research project Bacon’s books: Francis Bacon’s library and its role in his art, a collaboration between The Hugh Lane and Trinity College Dublin.
Andrew Durham, conservator, ArtLab Australia, formerly of the Tate Gallery, London
Durham studied history of art at Cambridge and conservation of paintings at the Courtauld Institute in London. He was a paintings conservator at the Tate Gallery, where he interviewed several significant 20th-century painters on their technique, including Bacon. His 'Note on technique’ was published in the 1985 catalogue of the major Bacon exhibition at the Tate. As head of conservation at the Australian National Gallery, he interviewed contemporary artists such as Carl Andre and Frank Stella about their techniques.
Macushla Robinson, assistant curator, Francis Bacon: five decades
Robinson is curatorial assistant at the Art Gallery of NSW and the author of the artwork entries in the book accompanying Francis Bacon: five decades. As well as contributing to Gallery publications, she has written art criticism for journals, including Art and Australia and Art Monthly.
9:30am Registration and morning tea, Domain Theatre Foyer
10am Welcome, Michael Brand, director, Art Gallery of NSW and Mark Ledbury, director, The Power Institute, University of Sydney
10:15am Anthony Bond, Francis Bacon: realist
This paper will focus on the realist aspect of Bacon’s practice and his philosophical musings on representation, on chance, chaos and order, unconsciousness and criticality. It will place him within the late 20th-century avant-garde as an indexical realist, based on his own words, material from the studio and the paintings themselves.
11am Barbara Dawson, Francis Bacon’s food
Over 40 cookbooks were found in Bacon’s library and several were located in his studio. He was known to be a good, if simple, cook. A renowned gourmand, Bacon enjoyed eating and drinking and was a regular presence in London’s best restaurants as well as in the drinking dens of Soho. He lived through two world wars and witnessed severe food shortages in London during World War II. Food played a significant role in the artist’s life and work. Describing himself as a 'desperate optimist’, Bacon’s nihilistic view of life as expressed in his paintings often drew on images of meat and food to underpin the message.
11:55am Andrew Durham, Francis Bacon: his painting technique
This paper will look at how Bacon developed his very idiosyncratic style of painting, the materials he used and what ‘chance’ and ‘accident’ may mean in the context of the act of painting.
12:40pm Discussion panel with Anthony Bond, Barbara Dawson and Andrew Durham, moderated by Mark Ledbury
1pm Lunch, Domain Theatre Foyer
1:45pm Nicholas Chare, Dissolute practices: addressing Francis Bacon’s body politics
This paper will examine recent developments in the study of Bacon’s work, including the theological significance of his art (Rina Arya) and its connection to European fascism (Martin Hammer), in relation to the artist’s enduring fascination with bodies in seeming dissolution. Drawing on this path-breaking scholarship for inspiration it will additionally address how representations of flesh in Bacon’s works betray political agency.
2:30pm Macushla Robinson, Francis Bacon and the female nude
Against the tide of art history, Bacon predominantly painted men. It may seem strange, then, to consider his paintings of women, but Bacon painted some erotically charged nude women and these paintings raise a fascinating question about how Bacon, a homosexual man, engaged with and represented female sexuality. This paper will tease out some of the political issues implicit in Bacon’s depiction of the female form.
3:15pm Discussion panel with all speakers, moderated by Mark Ledbury
4pm-4.30pm Drinks, Domain Theatre Foyer
Presented in conjunction with the Power Institute for Art and Visual Culture, University of Sydney
Image: Francis Bacon Three figures and a portrait 1975 Tate London. Purchased 1977 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. DACS/Licensed by Viscopy. Photo: © Tate, London 2011
Saturday 9 February 2013, 9.30am–4pm
Full-time student $30
Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1740
Includes includes morning tea, lunch and a glass of wine
Tickets available at the door (cash only)
Duration 6 hours, 30 minutes
Location: Domain Theatre
Related exhibition: Francis Bacon