The Ambiguous Diagram

July 27, 2011

Deleuze’s chapter on the Diagram considers the relationship between the process and resolution of Bacon’s work in comparison to other artistic factions. He describes the artist’s methodology as intrinsically “chaotic”, as an organic – perhaps even intuitive – process through which a formal and affectual outcome emerges, as opposed to one which is predetermined (and therefore objectively separable) through sketching. Deleuze describes, “…the head: part of it will be cleared away with a brush, broom sponge or rag”, which he likens to “the emergence of another world… accidental, free, random”. Deleuze argues that through such actions, such physical and simultaneously emotional gestures, Bacon’s inner emotion becomes tangibly impressioned onto the canvas.

Deleuze compares this methodology to other contemporary movements, which he labels Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism. Whereas the former is concerned with the visual reduction of the chaotic process (it “turns chaos into a simple stream”) and the latter with celebrating chaos in an overtly manual fashion (in which the eye becomes subordinate to the hand), Deleuze essentially argues that the complexity of Bacon’s work lies within its ambiguity, nervously situated between these two poles.

In this sense, the process of emergent diagramation, as both a manually-logical and emotionally-illogical system, which is itself embedded in the canvas (as opposed to being separately formulated), gives Bacon’s work such complexity. It is these tensions, between the process – as a simultaneously manual and emotional ritual, compositionally-considered yet frenetically-emergent – and as an outcome – intensively visual, yet paradoxically embodied with meaning – which ultimately define Bacon’s pieces and indeed the complexity of contemporary thought.



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