“I think Bacon is one of the greatest painters of all time. He’s up there with Goya, Soutine and Van Gogh: dirty painters who wrestle with the dark stuff. He’s complicated. It’s not essentially about formal skill or technique or dexterity. It’s about belief. I believe! And the struggle, the sense that you somehow grunt your way though it by sheer will. That’s what’s inspiring to me, alongside the sheer bravery of confronting the dark side, the shadows, the full force of the human psyche. If you compare him to Lucien Freud, say, it’s obvious that Freud is the more technically accomplished painter. He can read what he sees, and render it. Bacon couldn’t do that. If you look at the feet in his paintings, they’re bloody awful. He can’t do boots. [Laughs] But it’s so bloody powerful. His work always veers into the imagination. There’s always this raw, dark power, this visceral energy that is compelling. The paint is alive….I have five Bacons now. They’ll end up in the Manor [Hirst’s country estate in Toddington]. I have one on the wall by the TV. I watch it more than I watch the TV. You can’t not look at it. It demands your attention, pulls you in. It’s just unbelievable to me that I own them. He popped into the Saatchi once to look at my work. They called me and said, ‘Bacon’s been in, he was here for about an hour.’ I didn’t really believe them but then here’s this letter he wrote to Louis Le Brocquy, the Irish painter, where he says, ‘I saw this Hirst fly piece and it really worked.’ I still can’t quite believe it.” Read more.
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