Hirst on Bacon

The Guardian’s column, “Great Interviews of the 20th Century,” features an edited extract from “Interviews with Francis Bacon” by David Sylvester. The interviews took place in 1963, 1966 and 1979 and were published by Thames & Hudson Ltd, London. In his foreword to the excerpts, Damien Hirst, simply described as an internationally renowned artist, reports that the Sylvester/Bacon interviews changed his life when he read them as a teenager: “When I first read David Sylvester’s interviews with Francis Bacon at the bushy-tailed, bright-eyed age of 16, they changed my life; it was the way into art for me. I read and re-read the interviews and have carried on devouring them, like a bible to a believer. For a start, they were the first art writings I read that I didn’t need a dictionary to decipher. They are massively inventive, not just in terms of the history of painting but in terms of the future of painting, too. They are also arguably the most revealing interviews ever conducted with a single artist, and were immediately recognised as one of the great contributions to the study of 20th-century art….Sylvester and Bacon leave no stone unturned in their joint search for language and meaning, debating painterly solutions to painters’ problems and the changing role of subject matter. ” Read more.

Excerpt from the interviews: “David Sylvester: The open mouths – are they always meant to be a scream? Francis Bacon: Most of them, but not all. You know how the mouth changes shape. I’ve always been very moved by the movements of the mouth and the shape of the mouth and the teeth. People say that these have all sorts of sexual implications, and I was always very obsessed by the actual appearance of the mouth and teeth, and perhaps I have lost that obsession now, but it was a very strong thing at one time. I like, you may say, the glitter and colour that comes from the mouth, and I’ve always hoped in a sense to be able to paint the mouth like Monet painted a sunset.” Read more.

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