There is more than meets the eye

Everyone has their own attitude towards life, whether they are optimists or pessimists – affecting ones judgement. I see myself as an optimist, looking for the positives in the bleakest of situations, especially when analysing a dull image. You make it what you want, even if its not the truth.

In this specific lecture, we began with a simple yet effective activity in which we paired up, passing judgement on each others clothing – ’judging a book by its cover’. From something as simple as a pair of multi-coloured trainers to a tweed jacket, immediately labelled the individual. The majority of judgements may have been correct, however a substantial number were incorrect. Its not until you introduce the “books” voice to the equation that you discover the truth.

For example, a more serious case of ‘judging a book by its cover’ is a daily occurrence for victims of knife crime. Currently working on a project relating to this subject, my eyes have been opened to the ‘domino effect’ – a majority which is caused by peoples instant perception and judgement. Victims fail to gain employment, find love and simply lose all confidence through marks left on ones body. These marks to many, ‘symbolise’ a criminal or illegal background. I must admit I have been one of those people in the past. Its hard to control your immediate perception, however as you mature, you realise there is more to a person than meets the eye.

The same principles apply to artwork.  Most people, especially those out with the art world, decide instantly whether they like an image or not. However, if you take time to analyse, you will discover the true meaning, whether it be through symbolism, composition or the medium used. For example, many years ago, I went to a Francis Bacon exhibition in Edinburgh. My initial thoughts were, “rubbish”. I was young and severely judgmental, however as I matured over the years I returned to Bacon. It was then I realised the power of symbolism, not only through the image, but the way in which the image was composed.

Born in 1909, Dublin, a young Bacon was influenced by the works of Picasso. It wasn’t until the mid 1940’s until he made his breakthrough with his “three studies for figures at the base of a crucifix”  making an impact at the Lefevre Gallery. At first glance, I thought “I could do better”, however as I analysed the paintings, my attitude altered. My favourite series of painting are that of the Heads I-VI (1948-49). His paintings contain elements such as mutilation, Pain and claustrophobia – all of which create an uneasy viewing. The use of  the distorted figure placed within a box, creates boundaries and emphasises the feeling of being trapped. His use of large brush strokes combined with the screaming face creates an uncomfortable and some what scary atmosphere. Bacons main themes present how weak and vulnerable the human condition really is.

Head I

Head I, 1948
oil and tempera on wood, 100.3 x 75 cm
collection Richard S.Zeisler, New York

Head II, 1949

Head II, 1949
oil on canvas, 80.5 x 65 cm
collection Ulster Museum, Belfast

Head III, 1949

Head III, 1949,
oil on canvas, 81 x 66 cm
private collection

Head VI, 1949

Head VI, 1949
93 x 76.5 cm
Arts Council collection, Hayward Gallery, London


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About ryanmcginley

Currently studying Graphic Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

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