“We are not natural,” Beard said to his friend. “We have gone so far from natural.” Bacon’s own nature had been outlawed for all but five years of his life. “Well, there’s
nobody more unnatural than I am myself,” he told Beard, “and after all I’ve worked on myself to be as unnatural as possible in a sense.”
“It’s the shape and the movement of animals which really absorb and interest me,” Bacon said. “And I link their movement with human movement… the organism of
movement in itself…” He told Beard how his first interest in animals came from Eadweard Muybridge’s book on animals in motion, and from Maxwell’s book. “I found those tremendously exciting… They set up a whole mechanism of images for me which very often hadn’t anything to do with the photograph I was looking at, but they were like a trigger which released something with me, you can call it some kind of instinctive drive or reaction, and for that reason animals have always fascinated me and especially photographs of animals, because I find with me, it sets up a sort of underground train of imagery.”
“Are there any other things which you see as beautiful things,” Beard asked him, looking around at the debris of the artist’s room, “such as a discarded newspapers changing colour in the sunlight?”
“Bones and carcasses that have been in the sea or sun and sand for a long time and have changed into other things,” Bacon replied. “There is a kind of beauty in that – a kind of magic.”
He picked up one of the scraps. “I don’t know what this image here is. I was actually looking at a photograph of some birds diving into the sea, and this thing came out of it – this kind of double image, I don’t really know what it is.”
“‘Do you think those dead elephants have an aesthetic quality to them?’ Beard asked.
"No, I don’t,” Bacon replied. “You can say that there are… beautiful elephants, beautiful people but I don’t think that’s the same thing as aesthetic. Aesthetic is even more artificial…”
“Another kind of beauty,” Beard said.
“For me it’s in the state in which I see it in the photograph”, Bacon said. “It’s a trigger. It’s a release action, I mean, it releases one’s sensibility… After all, the mind tends always to be making out of chaos, patterns… the chaos of a decomposing elephant…”
It was as if both men knew it was already too late. That the balance of both human and animal life on the planet faced irrevocable threats. Twenty years later, after Bacon’s death in 1992, hundreds of Beard’s photographs were found scattered on the floor of Bacon’s studio. It was a silent, spectral site; a “deeply ordered chaos” as the artist said. Bacon’s animals are not ironical or emblematic. They stand across the abyss, looking back at us.
“I’m not here to preach anything,” Bacon told Beard. “I work as near to my instinct as I possibly can. It’s all I can do”. After all, he was only an animal himself.
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