The Round Area, the Ring

Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Round Area, the Ring’, pp.1-7, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum)


A round area often delimits the place where the person – that is to say, the Figure is seated, lying down, doubled over, or in some other position.

In short, the painting is composed like a circus ring, a kind of amphitheater as “place.” It is a very simple technique that consists in isolating the Figure.


The important point is that they do not consign the Figure to immobility but, on the contrary, render sensible a kind of progression, an exploration of the Figure within the place, or upon itself. It is an operative field.

Not only is the painting an isolated reality, and not only does the triptych have three isolated panels (which above all must not be united in a single frame), but the Figure itself is isolated in the painting by the round area or the parallelepiped.

Why? Bacon often explains that it is to avoid the figurative, illustrative, and narrative character the Figure would necessarily have if it were not isolated.

Painting has neither a model to represent nor a story to narrate. It thus has two possible ways of escaping the figurative: toward pure form, through abstraction; or toward the purely figural, through extraction or isolation


Isolation is thus the simplest means, necessary though not sufficient, to break with representation, to disrupt narration, to escape illustration, to liberate the Figure: to stick to the fact.

Clearly the problem is more complicated than this. Is there not another type of relationship between Figures, one that would not be narrative, and from which no figuration would follow?


What is this other type of relationship, a relationship between coupled or distinct Figures? Let us call these new relationships matters of fact, as opposed to intelligible relations (of objects or ideas).

What fills the rest of the painting will be neither a landscape as the correlate of the Figure, nor a ground from which the form will emerge, nor a formless chiaroscuro, a thickness of color on which shadows would play, a texture on which variation would play.


In fact, the rest of the painting is systematically occupied by large fields [aplats] of bright, uniform, and motionless color. Thin and hard, these fields have a structuring and spatializing function. They are not beneath, behind, or beyond the Figure, but are strictly to the side of it, or rather, all around it, and are thus grasped in a close view, a tactile or “haptic” view, just as the Figure itself is.

If the fields function as a background, they do so by virtue of their strict correlation with the Figures. It is the correlation of two sectors on a single plane, equally close.


[Bacon] distinguishes three fundamental elements in his painting, which are the material structure, the round contour, and the raised image.

We will see later what the various elements of this system have to do with Egyptian art, Byzantine art, and so forth. But what concerns us here is this absolute proximity, this co-precision, of the field that functions as a ground, and the Figure that functions as a form, on a single plane that is viewed at close range.

It is this system, this coexistence of two immediately adjacent sectors, which encloses space, which constitutes an absolutely closed and revolving space, much more so than if one had proceeded with the somber, the dark, or the indistinct.

This is why there is indeed a certain blurriness in Bacon; there are even two kinds of blurriness, but they both belong to this highly precise system.