The Logic of Sensation is a work by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. It was first published in France in 1981 and is one of the most powerful, inventive and original studies of the work of the artist Francis Bacon. It brings a uniquely philosophical rigour to bear upon Bacon’s body of work, resulting in an unusual and distinctive understanding of the structure, function and composition of the paintings. One of Deleuze’s main objectives in writing a philosophical study of Bacon’s work is to elaborate a conceptual analogue that demonstrates a genuine level of empirical attentiveness to the paintings’ topology, rhythm and affectivity. Yet Deleuze’s study remains a difficult and challenging one, organised as it is around a series of complex philosophical concepts, obscure art-historical theory and detailed analyses of specific paintings. Despite being translated into English in 2001, Deleuze’s book is still often misunderstood, misrepresented and unjustly ignored within the field of philosophical aesthetics, art history & theory and Bacon studies.
My research has been focused on demonstrating the contribution that Deleuze’s book makes to a renewed understanding of the complexity of Bacon’s paintings. In 2009 I contributed a major essay on Deleuze and Bacon in a collection of new writings compiled by the Estate of Francis Bacon to celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth, and I have a new essay in a volume of critical and thoeretical work on Francis Bacon published by Peter Lang in 2012.
There remains a persistent enigma in Bacon’s work regarding the relation between the meaning of appearance in his paintings and the question of the depth of that meaning. The discipline of philosophy can be defined as the attempt to understand the reality of appearance, often by traversing the abstract depths of appearance using analysis. It is particularly well suited to carrying out the rigorous and systematic analysis that Bacon’s work so clearly solicits. When confronted by Bacon’s paintings there is a danger of reading them in a straightforward way, as if they were just representations of something we already know and recognise. Such readings present the deformity, mutilation and dissipation of the figures in Bacon’s paintings as illustrations of existential horror and suffering. Such readings relegate Bacon to being a mere chronicler of the violence, cruelties and primal excesses associated with the human condition. My research demonstrates that Deleuze’s reading of Bacon avoids such a temptation, and that in doing so it presents a careful and challenging meditation upon his art. The subtle and profound insights of Deleuze’s philosophical study have the potential for transforming how we understand Bacon’s art. I argue that Deleuze and Bacon are counterparts, fundamentally resembling and complementing each other, and both engaged in a monumental struggle to elaborate lived reality through their respective mediums. It is the aim of my work to facilitate a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Deleuze’s book amongst philosophers, art theorist and art historians within the English speaking world.
I am currently working on a full-length monograph for publication in 2014, Counterparts: A Study of Gilles Deleuze & Francis Bacon. It will be the first book-length study of The Logic of Sensation in direct reference to Bacon’s paintings, serving to clarify, explain and illuminate this important work. With this book I aim to render Deleuze’s formidable text accessible to a much wider readership, and help establish its proper place in the specific field of Bacon studies and the broader field of philosophical aesthetics and art theory. Drawing upon several years of extensive scholarly research, this book will explicate the correspondence between Deleuze’s creative materialist ontology, as outlined in his earlier philosophical work, his philosophical precursors, and his powerful analysis of Bacon’s paintings. The book will include reproductions of recently discovered correspondence between Deleuze and Bacon from the 1980’s, which will be introduced by renowned art historian and Bacon specialist Martin Harrison.