The art of Francis Bacon has been a major research focus in recent years. My book Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda presents the artist as more engaged with the wider world than is usually acknowledged, seeking in his work to articulate what it felt like to witness the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, and then then the horrifying violence and the self-destruction that ensued when the Nazi craving for power turned into the pursuit of military conquest and the Final Solution.
I am fascinated by the very distinctive way in which Bacon assimilated and transformed to his own pictorial and expressive ends ideas derived from many kinds of photographs, as well as the work of other artists. Generally, I think art historians pay insufficient attention to the stimulation artists constantly derive from past and present practitioners, as a form of creative research comparable to the way writers bounce off their reading, or composers off listening to music. The crude and seemingly pejorative notion of ‘influence’ gets in the way of attending to the operations of this kind of visual intelligence within creativity.
Given this commitment to looking, in art history as well as art practice, I greatly value my association with the Tate. I have served as a member of the Tate Britain Council, gave the Rothenstein lecture last year on Bacon and Degas, work closely with Tate Research and Archive, and published my Bacon book with the museum.
An emerging research interest is Transatlantic cultural exchange, in particular the complex interchange between the UK and the USA during the 1960s. I arrived in Canterbury in September 2012, having been based for some years at the University of Edinburgh, and since then have been working with colleagues in film, literature and architecture to develop a major interdisciplinary project in this field. The art of David Hockney in the Sixties is one focus of forthcoming publications and lectures.
I would welcome approaches from potential PhD students about working on Bacon, and on British Modernism generally, with special reference to the transatlantic dimension.
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I have taught many areas of British and International modernism, and feel that both I and my students benefit when course work is closely aligned to current research projects. Recent and current modules have focussed on the art of Francis Bacon and on artistic exchange between the UK and the USA. I also convene the Introduction to Art History module and the course on images of the body taught in our Kent in Paris MA programme.
Having recently completed a series of publications centred on the art of Francis Bacon, I am now moving on to new projects. My main focus is a collaboration with colleagues at Kent and elsewhere, working in film, literature, music, architecture and popular culture as well as on artistic developments, which addresses the theme of Transatlantic artistic relations since the Second World War, a period when Britain and the USA had a multitude of cultural, economic and political ties, and travel across the Atlantic became quick and cheap. There is great scope for considering in detail and depth how artists, critics, galleries and collectors responded to the other culture, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and antipathy, and conditioned by the mental and visual baggage they took with them. The art of David Hockney in the 1960s is proving a wonderful case study for exploring such issues.
Having supervised several PhDs to completion, I would welcome approaches and applications in the areas of British and International art in the mid-20th century.
Since September 2012 I have been supervising James Finch's PhD on the art writing of the British art critic David Sylvester, under the terms of an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (co-supervisor: Dr Jennifer Mundy of Tate Research)