Shifting Frames: Film and Francis Bacon
Queen's University of Belfast
(at time of presentation)
Concern with Francis Bacon’s citation of specific films has dominated critical analysis of the relationship between his paintings and the cinema. This paper argues that his works respond to a wider film aesthetic, focussing on his approach to the frame. It will consider three key tendencies of Bacon’s paintings which accord with critical descriptions of the operation of the cinematic frame (Bonitzer, Aumont, Bazin, Ortega y Gasset, Mast, Deleuze, Hamlyn, Iles). 1- Reflection: Bacon exploits the capacity of a highly reflective object-frame to make the viewer conscious of space beyond the frame, embracing the distancing effect that comes from being unable to view his paintings without awareness of the reflected viewing space. 2- Relegated Vision: Bacon’s concern with depicting cause but not effect can be aligned with a cinematic tradition, outlined by Bonitzer (Decadrages, 1974), which allows shots to exist in isolation with questions raised for the viewer that are never answered within the frame, the resulting void inviting sensation. 3- Repetition and Reframing: Bacon’s triptychs do not adhere to the conventions of Christian painting. Instead, they correspond to the idea of a succession of images on film with a single figure repeated and reframed across adjacent canvases. Single canvases make use of frames within frames, with a motif of cameras invoking the perpetually shifting cinema frame.