S&F Bacon and Nietzsche’s Abyss

S&F Bacon Nietzsche smallThis cartoon came out of a visit to the Francis Bacon and Thomas Moore exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  I’m not a fan of Bacon’s work due to how grotesquely he interprets humanity, which makes for disturbingly visceral viewing experience.

Anyhow, the visit gave rise to subsequent debates about what one chooses to experience in life, in that the lover of knowledge cannot remain merely an observer.  So… is it always best to seek out all knowledge, regardless of what that knowledge is?  Or, is it sometimes best to deliberately look away from the awful when one has the choice?

I don’t have the answer of course, but do think Nietszche’s abyss quote touches on the  spiritual echo that can result from our choices. For a lighter take on this concept, feel free to check out a prior illustrated story, Ernie & The Nietzsche Monster.

I am a painter of the 20th century: during my childhood I lived through the revolutionary Irish movement, Sinn Fein, and the wars, Hiroshima, Hitler, the death camps, and daily violence that I’ve experienced all my life. And after all that they want me to paint bunches of pink flowers … But that’s not my thing. The only things that interest me are people, their folly, their ways, their anguish, this unbelievable, purely accidental intelligence which has shattered the planet, and which maybe, one day, will destroy it.”  – Francis Bacon, 2003

8 thoughts on “S&F Bacon and Nietzsche’s Abyss

  1. I’ll see your Nietszche, and raise you Shakespeare: Knowledge in and of itself is “[n]either good [n]or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Perhaps “the choice” becomes easier when you take judgement out of the equation?

    • Hey! You’ve been busy on here today, that’s nice to see 🙂 Hamlet is definitely apropos for this one… The choice could be easier without judgment but is that possible? Another option. Someone posted the following quote from Bertrand Russell on another post this week… “Thought can look into the depths of the abyss and have no fear”

  2. Hi Melissa,

    For me, it is the right to choose. That is, the right to seek out knowledge, regardless of the path it takes you, be it good or bad (whatever good or bad means to begin with as these are fairly subjective words).


    • Hi Amit,
      Thank you for your comment! I think the right to choose is paramount. I guess I just wonder about the wisdom of certain choices, but I suppose each individual is affected differently – or interprets differently – what is indeed “good” or “bad”.

  3. “Never get outta the boat! Never get outta the boat! I gotta remember, I gotta remember! Never get outta the boat!”
    —Chef, Apocalypse Now.

    I need to get out of the boat. I need sometimes to walk in the jungle, look into the abyss and see what’s in there. Is it us? Did we create it? We can’t look away if we want to know ourselves.

    “The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
    — Arundhati Roy

    • John.
      What awesome comments.. both quotes and thoughts. The quote from Arundhati Roy is particularly striking, watch this space for some repurposing coming your way soon! With full attribution of course. And I love the chef quotation!! Very cool…

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