This article addresses the question about why painting continues to be relevant in our contemporary cultural climate. A key reason can be located in the means by which the material of paint can be utilized, manipulated, and perceived through entire sensory and bodily mechanisms. As the practice of Francis Bacon (1909–1992) demonstrates, it is within the elusive behaviour and handling of pigment that the full transformative potential of painting can be released. In fact it can activate a whole field of sensory responses on the part of painter and viewer. The painter can manipulate the material to achieve a variety of effects but needs also to acknowledge how the material can potentially assume an independent life of its own, an almost unruly character. The strength and enduring quality of painting which links modern to postmodern practice, lies in its potential to utilise the painter's tacit skills as well as releasing the inherent and ‘unruly’ qualities of the pigment. The potential of painting practice lies within the orbit of the individual painter who can recognize implicitly how to let the paint ‘work’ according to the needs of the image being constructed.