The Turner Prize nominated artist James Richards has selected Francis Bacon’s ‘Study for a Portrait’ (1953), for the fourth and final presentation of works from the V-A-C collection, Moscow, and as a response to Bacon’s iconic figure, the artist has created an immersive sound work for the exhibition, which envelops the redesigned gallery space and audience alike, creating a new ‘space’ in which Bacon’s powerful work sits at its heart.
This major work from the V-A-C collection by Bacon depicts an unknown, suited man sitting on a grand chair, evocative of the artist’s oft-used Papal throne, set against a midnight blue backdrop. One of the last works painted in his studio at the Royal College of Art, and pre-dates his 1954 Man in Blue paintings. The work holds the usual gravitas of many of Bacon’s works – but with the addition of Richards’ immersive soundscape – the work takes on a new dimension. The artist’s composition is a highly impactful juxtaposition; Richards transforms the space through sound, increasing the theatricality of Bacon’s work, transforming the space into a sound installation encompassing the viewer. Richards describes his sound work as a ‘sonic filter’ for the great British artist’s painting.
Creating a suspenseful narrative journey through a series of audio cues; Richards expands upon Bacon’s existing theatricality, as the composition of layered human voices and electronic rhythmic sounds plays through the multi-channel sound installation, alluding to some unfolding drama. Artlyst attended this impressive and mesmerising work to experience the unique fusion of great British master painter of the 20th century and contemporary sound installation of the 21st century, creating an orchestral and ambient work of art in its own right, with operatic, and theatrical leitmotifs that create a temporal aspect to Bacon’s classic painting, transforming the gallery space into a Baconian space-frame in its own right.
Words: Paul Black, images courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery © Artlyst 2015
James Richards Selects From The V-A-C Collection – Whitechapel Gallery – until 30 Aug 2015