Painting Sensation and Logic?

February 22, 2012

Deleuzes attempts to create a compilation of arguments for “the logic of sensation”. He mainly looks at Bacon but also compares him to other painters as Cézanne and reflects on the so called nature of art using the painting as the main object of his interest but without a primary for the same art itself it is the the question of representation of being in play that seems to be the real target.


Deleuze looks at Bacons painting but does not interpret them or criticize them as works of art but rather uses them as tools and tries out new ways of thinking through and with them. Using the painting and their creation as a way of thinking the concept of sensation and “the logic of sensation”.

An important thought is that “Sensation is what is painted. What is painted on the canvas is the body, not insofar as it is represented as an object, but insofar as it is experienced as sustaining this sensation…”

To understand Deleuzes use of the term Figure I believe that it is necessary to see his paintings. His “Figure” is more than the figure as an idea or as a representation of a body. His Figure is a specific subject/object that eventually becomes a prisoner in Bacons paintings caught in a repetitive aesthetic language that Bacon has himself become a victim of. The latter judgment is a highly personal one that Deleuze would surely not share. Another term that appears several times in the same chapter is figuration. The important difference between Figure and figuration is according to Deleuze “…that the form related to the sensation (the Figure) is the opposite of the form related to an object that it is supposed to represent (figuration).”


Deleuze claims in the chapter Painting and Sensation that some “paint”, which should probably be read in a wider sense (maybe as visual artistic representation), reaches the nervous system without passing through the brain. If this interpretation is correct- what Deleuze presumably means is that it reaches the pre-conscious levels of the brain rather than the areas of the brain that process stimuli at a conscious level.


My strongest reaction to the texts is that there is a relatively conservative and normative attitude towards art and creativity. Also I must admit to find it surprising that someone as radical as Deleuze would as late as 1981 choose to write about Bacon and painting and not discuss and reflect on contemporary artists and their practices. Why not discuss the question of representation of being using other examples of visual art besides conventional canvas paintings?

He mentions Turner, Cézanne, Mondrian, Kandinsky and Pollack among others but fails to find artists that continue to question the practice of painting and its symbolic value in 70’s.


Sara BC

One Response to “Painting Sensation and Logic?”

  1. A clear account, and a good critique of Deleuze. See also the references Deleuze makes to: Carl André, Robert Ryman, Martin Barré, Christian Bonnwfoi (106), for more contemporary artists (at least related to Deleuze’s time of writing). Of course, all these artists are men…which is also a problem. For your image, perhaps over-draw on a canvas of Bacon, or another work of art, to develop your diagram? In other chapters of Francis Bacon, Deleuze develops his analysis of the structuring components that compose a Bacon canvas, including the flat plane of colors in the background; the contours or line work that describe figures and spaces; and the featured Figures. H.Frichot

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