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Bacon: Three Studies of George Dyer (on Light Ground)

Is life defined by synchronicity, a divine order to all things that fuels auspicious coincidence and meaning into each experience? Or, to quote Michelle McNamara, is the real meaning of life: “It’s chaos. Be kind”?

Perhaps the simple answer is: “Yes.” To visit the life and work of Irish artist Francis Bacon, perhaps we can consider life a “deeply ordered chaos.” It was through such chaos that Bacon met his lover George Dyer, who broke into Bacon’s studio through a skylight in the autumn of 1963. One year later, Bacon painted this triptych of his partner and muse, a petty crook whose life ended in 1971 on the bathroom floor of a Paris hotel room.

“All painting is an accident,” Bacon said, echoing his overall theory of life. “But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.” His work was famous for incorporating chance brushstrokes and spontaneous drips of paint into a sense of completed image. The result is order underneath a veneer of chaos, and chaos underneath a veneer of order, revealing the person beneath the portrait as well as the personality of the portraitist as we see here in both the affection and deep attention Bacon pays to Dyer. He continued to paint portraits of his lover long after he succumbed to his depression and dependency, and in them we can see an attempt to balance order with chaos. We can see the attempt to find the meaningful parts of the accident to preserve.

It’s chaos. Be kind.

Today’s Contemplation: Where do you find yourself coming up against the edges of accident and serendipity in your life? What do those edges look like? What do they feel like? If it’s all chaos, where can you find order? Where can you be kind?