Pleasures of pounding the flesh

30th January 1998 at 00:00
FRANCIS BACON: THE HUMAN BODY. Hayward Gallery. February 5 - April 5

The volence, distortion, debasement and decomposition in Francis Bacon's work have attracted audiences' attention ever since London's Tate Gallery showed his "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion" in 1945. This is especially true when, as in the Hayward exhibition, Bacon expresses these themes with reference to his central subject, the human body.

Bacon's figures can appear deeply anxious and vulnerable, even to themselves. In an attempt to assert some kind of meaningful presence, the aimless figures in the 1970 "Triptych - Studies of the Human Body" expand and contract in all directions. In "Study for Self-Portrait - Triptych" painted only a few years before his death in l992, Bacon confronted, for almost the last time, the threatening possibility of a disintegration of personal identity that can so easily overcome someone in isolation.

But convinced "there is an area of the nervous system to which the texture of paint communicates more violently than anything else", he has regularly made living flesh seem palpably and at times voluptuously real.

Speakers at the weekly gallery talks throughout February and March will include a plastic surgeon, a psychoanalyst and a choreographer as well as the writers, artists and art-historians. March 24 will see a performance of three movements from composer Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Blood on the Floor", inspired by Bacon's painting.

At a special evening on February 13, teachers can view the exhibition, discuss the works with the education officer and gallery guides, and take away an education pack with contextual information, pictorial commentaries and suggestions for using the exhibition in school.

Weekday gallery guides are Wednesday 11am to 2pm. Gallery talks and musical performance are free with an exhibition ticket. The teacher's pack is free, but those wishing to attend the teachers' evening should ring for a teacher's pass. For this and all other enquiries tel: 0171 921 0951

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