domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Jenny Saville / An undoubted heavy-weight of the Britart movement



Jenny Saville

(Cambridge, 1970)

In a society often obsessed with physical appearance, Jenny Saville has created a niche for overweight women in contemporary visual culture. Known primarily for her large-scale paintings of obese women, Saville has recently broken into the contemporary art world with the help of gallery owner and art collector Charles Saatchi. Rising quickly to great critical and public recognition in part through Saatchi’s patronage, Saville has been heralded for creating conceptual art through the use of a classical standard -- the figure painting.


The Mothers, 2011
Jenny Saville



         Saville was born into a family of educators in Cambridge, England, in 1970. She began a course of study at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland in 1988. There, she found only one female painting tutor -- a disappointing lack of female perspective for the budding feminist. This lack of a female presence was soon filled through the feminist texts that Saville began reading during a visit to the United States midway through her college career. Saville was awarded a scholarship to attend Cincinnati University for six months. The college was located in Ohio, where Saville’s lifelong fascination with the workings of the human body began to affect her artwork. Finding herself immersed in a different culture, Saville “was interested in the malls, where you saw lots of big women. Big white flesh in shorts and T-shirts. It was good to see because they had the physicality that I was interested in.” It was in this environment that Saville began to read the feminist literature that would later play an important role in paintings such as Propped. With these texts and other artists such as Cindy Sherman (a contemporary conceptual photographer) as an influence, Saville embarked on creating a series of works that would later make up her degree show in Glasgow.

         At this college degree show, Saville’s career began to take shape. All of her paintings shown were sold -- quite an uncommon and impressive feat for a 22-year-old artist. This was only one of the first signs of the success that Saville would soon achieve. Former advertising mogul-turned-gallery-owner Charles Saatchi spotted Saville’s work in a 1993 show called “Critic’s Choice,” at London’s Cooling Gallery (a show Saville herself didn’t get to see because she lacked the finances to make the trip from Glasgow). Impressed with what he saw, Saatchi decided to track down the paintings that had been purchased in Glasgow to buy them for his own collection. In addition, he challenged Saville to make paintings to fill his gallery. Paying her to work from August 1992 until January of 1994, Saatchi used the commissioned works to produce a 1994 show of Saville’s paintings in his gallery space in northwestern London. This show widened Saville’s audience and subsequently led to the inclusion of her work in exhibits at venues such as the Pace McGill in New York, the Museum of Kalmar in Stockholm, and the Royal College of Art in London.

          Shortly after this string of shows, Saville crossed the ocean and moved to New York City for a period of time in 1994. There, Saville spent long hours observing the work of Dr. Barry Martin Weintraub, a plastic surgeon based in the city. Taking photographs while standing in on cosmetic surgeries and lyposuctions, Saville gained a better understanding of the human body and the various manipulations that can be made through modern medicine. Not only did she improve her knowledge of the physical workings of the alterations, but -- perhaps more importantly -- she gained insight into the psychological factors behind the changes as well.

         The controversial 1997 “Sensation” exhibit, which showed at the Royal Academy of Art in London, furthered Saville’s notoriety. “Sensation” included fellow Young British Artists (as they came to be dubbed by the media) Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marcus Harvey, Tracey Emin, and Chris Ofili, among others. The show opened to mixed reviews and throughout its run caused quite an uproar, inciting more than one occurrence of vandalism of the artwork. Fortunately, Saville’s work survived unscathed and was also featured in the equally uproarious New York showing of the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which Mayor Rudy Guiliani openly protested. Saville’s gigantic paintings dominated the show in sheer size, thus making her a household name in London and her work recognizable in popular British culture.

         Saville is lauded for her celebration of paint and her loyalty to oil painting as a medium. In a society of constant technological advancement, Saville has resisted the temptations of using media such as video in her work and has dabbled only briefly with photography. Although Saville finds great inspiration in such media and often sees multiple films per week, these modern fillers are not for her. Instead, she has embraced the physicality of paint and thus has chosen a medium that dates back hundreds of years. Saville is most often compared to contemporary British painter Lucian Freud. Though she acknowledges the truth in such a comparison, she has an interesting view of the ultimate in painting ability: “The marriage of [Francis] Bacon and [Willem] de Kooning -- Bacon’s figurative skills and de Kooning’s painting skills -- would make the best painter who ever lived.”

           Despite the prevalent use of her body in her work, Saville’s personal life is not often discussed. Although she has been involved with fellow painter Paul McPhail since the two met in art school seven years prior, there are currently no thoughts of marriage in Saville’s future. As she told Vogue, “I don’t have a desire to be a wife or to have a husband.” Right now, the closest Saville is willing to come to having children is a potential painting of a baby.

           Most recently, Saville was featured in a solo show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. The exhibit featured six new paintings that continued Saville’s pattern of large-scale nudes. One painting, Hybrid, is a double portrait of Saville and her sister based on a childhood photograph. The image is a close-up of the two heads, which appear to be attached like the heads of Siamese twins. Another painting, entitled Matrix, shows Saville’s interest in gender, as it depicts an intersex person. This slight digression from Saville’s usual subject matter is perhaps a sign of her new work to come.

           Currently, Jenny Saville lives and works in London, England, where she is a tutor of figure painting at the Slade School of Art in London. Her position at the Slade School allows her to share and learn with her students, and gives them the opportunity to work with one of the most talented up-and-coming artists of the twenty-first century. In an age where technology often prevails, Saville has found a way to reinvent figure painting and regain its prominent position in the context of art history.


Branded (1992)




             Completed early in her career, this painting was included in both her university degree show at the Glasgow School of Art as well as her solo exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Branded depicts a woman standing, staring out at the viewer. The woman -- stark naked in her obesity -- clutches a roll of fat with her left hand. The other hand raps around her rotund body in an awkward manner. When one views the painting, the point of focus starts at the woman’s glaring eyes. Then, traveling down her body, her enormous breasts lead the eye down her arm to the angry, gripping hand -- disgusted by (or proud of) the fat that it finds there. The woman in Branded is modeled after the artist herself. If one looks closely, one can see the distinct resemblance between Saville and the staring woman.

           Branded communicates a multitude of messages to the viewer simultaneously. Knowing that Saville modeled the woman after herself, one might guess that the painting is about the self-disgust Saville feels toward her own body. Another interpretation sees Saville as a proud woman, facing her viewers unabashedly in her nudity and in the comfort of her body. However, the interpretation of the painting changes when one considers the words that Saville has painted across her body. Over the breasts, belly, face, and hips, Saville has faintly scratched words into the paint, such as “Decorative,” “Support,” “Delicate,” and numerous others. These words turn Saville’s body into a text of sorts, a means of communication to the public. She is meant to be read, to be interpreted, as a written text would be. The words mock the conventional prototypes of how women are traditionally thought of in society -- that they should be delicate and petite, unobtrusive and docile. This woman is none of those things -- a point that her mocking face reinforces.


Matrix (1999)

Saville’s more recent work, including this 1999 painting, shows her fascination with gender. Though gender is always a driving force in her work, Matrix marks the first time that Saville has introduced an actual depiction of the blurred line between male and female. Matrix is a portrait of an intersex person -- the model is Del LaGrace Volcano. Del LaGrace had been taking testosterone supplements for three-and-a-half years in order to change her female body to that of a man. The painting is a foreshortened view of Del LaGrace. She lies, nude, legs open to reveal her hormonally altered genitals. The figure is rendered in typical Savillian pinks and whites in order to create a very physical, fleshy feeling. However, certain areas are highlighted with streaks of bright color. Saville draws attention to the region surrounding Del LaGrace’s genitalia by flecking the area with fine lines of brilliant red. A large patch of white is used to call attention to the right breast. The contrast between the femininity of Del LaGrace’s hanging breasts and the masculine face -- complete with mustache and goatee -- is what gives this particular Saville painting a new charge. Saville’s interest in the complicated workings of the human body culminate in this work, as she begins to explore the notion of the way that the body can be consciously altered or changed at one’s own whim. These alterations -- a sort of bodily technology -- and the psychological and physical repercussions of such changes are addressed in this painting through its sheer size and monumentality. Saville is up front and direct about Del LaGrace’s differences. As she has said about the painting, “Dels’ body fascinates me as it represents a human form proceeding through a self-initiated process of body transition. He/she is a mutational body with gender defying body parts. You want to push Del’s body into a category of male or female but can’t -- he/she is in a process of becoming.” It is evident in viewing this work that Saville’s paintings, like Dels’ body, are in a glorious process of becoming.





























































































Jenny Saville in her Oxford studio
Photo by Pal Hansen


Interview: This is Jenny, and this is her Plan: Men paint female beauty in stereotypes; Jenny Saville paints it the way it is. And Charles Saatchi is paying her to keep doing it


By Hunter Davis
Monday, 28 February 1994


Saville’s more recent work, including this 1999 painting, shows her fascination with gender. Though gender is always a driving force in her work, Matrix marks the first time that Saville has introduced an actual depiction of the blurred line between male and female. Matrix is a portrait of an intersex person -- the model is Del LaGrace Volcano. Del LaGrace had been taking testosterone supplements for three-and-a-half years in order to change her female body to that of a man. The painting is a foreshortened view of Del LaGrace. She lies, nude, legs open to reveal her hormonally altered genitals. The figure is rendered in typical Savillian pinks and whites in order to create a very physical, fleshy feeling. However, certain areas are highlighted with streaks of bright color. Saville draws attention to the region surrounding Del LaGrace’s genitalia by flecking the area with fine lines of brilliant red. A large patch of white is used to call attention to the right breast. The contrast between the femininity of Del LaGrace’s hanging breasts and the masculine face -- complete with mustache and goatee -- is what gives this particular Saville painting a new charge. Saville’s interest in the complicated workings of the human body culminate in this work, as she begins to explore the notion of the way that the body can be consciously altered or changed at one’s own whim. These alterations -- a sort of bodily technology -- and the psychological and physical repercussions of such changes are addressed in this painting through its sheer size and monumentality. Saville is up front and direct about Del LaGrace’s differences. As she has said about the painting, “Dels’ body fascinates me as it represents a human form proceeding through a self-initiated process of body transition. He/she is a mutational body with gender defying body parts. You want to push Del’s body into a category of male or female but can’t -- he/she is in a process of becoming.” It is evident in viewing this work that Saville’s paintings, like Dels’ body, are in a glorious process of becoming.


Jenny Saville is 23 and 'one of the most exciting artists' Charles Saatchi has seen in the last 30 years. In fact she could be the most exciting, but he's not saying. You have to work it out. He's given over his Saatchi Gallery in London to three young British painters - two men in their thirties and young Jenny - and has been reported as saying that one of them is the most exciting he's ever seen, etc.

Bound to be Jenny. Just look at the space on the arts pages. Look at the space in the gallery, dominating the whole exhibition, assaulting the senses the moment you step in. Look at the crowds gathered round her seven gigantic works. Hear them exclaim as they gasp at her female figures.
She doesn't look the artist, more like a lower sixth-former, so young, so small, so conventionally dressed. Most of the admiring visitors looked far more artistic, with their spiky hair, grungey clothes, nose rings. Some of them must have heard Jenny say yes, I used myself for that pose, that face is actually me, and at once there was a crowd round her. Disbelieving at first that such images could spring from this sweet, fresh-faced girl, then they were shaking her hand. 'Wicked attitude,' said a boy with a shaved head. 'All women will want to look fat from now on,' said a girl with green hair.
Jenny was pleased, as she is a painter, making serious points, which they all seemed to be getting, unlike some critics. A bit embarrassed too, with all the fuss, so we retreated to a quiet place. As she described her life so far, I found it even harder to understand where it has all come from. That's in the nature of real talent. You can't explain its source.

Jenny Saville in her Oxford studio
Photo by Pal Hansen

She was born in Cambridge in 1970, only passing through, and has never been back. Both parents were teaching there. At the time, her father was a primary school head who then started zooming up the educational ladder to become an Inspector, and eventually a Director of Education. All this meant criss-crossing the country and 15 different schools for Jenny. She has an older brother, Geoff, a pig farmer in Shropshire, and a young brother, Waz, 15, and younger sister, Boo, 14, both still at school. (Waz from Chas, ie Charles. Boo from Becky Boo, ie Rebecca. Easy, really.)
Moving around made her grow up fast, and she is wise for her age. 'By the time I was 13, I could tell when I arrived at each new school which group I would end up with. It was never the ones who took me over and were immediately helpful, but the ones at the back, saying nothing.' At her final school, a comprehensive in Newark, Nottinghamshire, she was made school captain, elected democractically, she stresses.
Her parents presumed she would go to university. She was good at most subjects, and sat four A-levels, but since the age of eight painting had been her passion. 'There were only two of us taking A-level art, so we had the art room to ourselves - I went wild.' Neither parent is artistic, but an uncle is an art teacher and had always encouraged her. It was he who said she should try Glasgow College of Art, where he had been.
Today, Jenny has a distinct Scottish accent, soft, rather Kelvinside-y. She has lived for the past five years in Glasgow, the longest she has been anywhere. She also has a big passion for Glasgow Rangers. She'd followed Ipswich at school, but adopted Rangers when she arrived in Glasgow, thanks partly to her friend Paul McPhail, a fellow art student. Is he your boyfriend, I asked, crassly. 'Partner,' she corrected. They live together in a Glasgow tenement, work together, watch Rangers together. 'My nose is blue,' she said.
During her first three years at Glasgow she worked as a waitress and a temp. 'I didn't get a grant, because my parents' income was too high, but I wanted to be independent, take nothing from them, pay my own way.' In her fourth year, she devoted herself to art, running up large debts in the process.
'Glasgow Art School is very traditional, very romantic. It was built by Mackintosh, as an art college. There're his original studios, the original sinks, and you feel part of a great tradition. It makes your work look far better than it would in a Portakabin, which is what most Southern art schools have.'


Halfway through she won a scholarship to the United States, one term in Cincinatti, a massive, modern art school, run on totally different lines. One of her courses included women in the community. It was this visit which hardened up her nascent feminist feelings. 'I'd always wondered why there had been no women artists in history. I found there had been - but not reported. I realised I'd been affected by male ideas, going through a male-dominated art college.' She started painting nudes, but not luscious Rubens women or sexy Impressionist models, ie the male stereotypes of women down the ages, but women as most women are. .
She entered competitions, won one in Glasgow, and was twice selected for the National Portrait Gallery in London. In her graduate show, in the summer of 1992, she sold almost all her paintings, making herself pounds 4,000 - exactly enough to pay off her debts.
In September 1992, the Times Saturday Review chanced to do a feature on young artists leaving art college, and one of Jenny's paintings ended up on the cover. This was seen by Charles Saatchi. He clutched his brow, shouted 'Eureka] I must have this girl. Track her down at once]' (I just made this up. C Saatchi never talks to the press.) He even contacted the person who had bought the painting he had seen - for which Jenny had been paid pounds 1,200 - and another which had been in a London show, persuading the purchasers to sell to him, price unknown.
He then made her an offer no 22-year-old artist, straight out of college, could possibly refuse. I will pay you a goodly sum of money, he said, enough for you to live well for the next year, and in return you will paint full-time, giving me at the end of the year your paintings, which I promise to show in my gallery. How many do you think you might do? Jenny readily agreed. Not even the slightest trace of cynicism?
'Some people have tried to suggest he might be using me, but how? As an investment? But then all people who buy paintings like to think it's an investment. I am totally grateful to him. Not just the money, but his act of faith. It built my confidence. I still can hardly believe it. He didn't dictate the style I must paint in, or how many. He left it all to me.'
She told no one. Not the Glasgow press. Not even her art school teachers. Just Paul, plus her parents. They didn't really understand. They said Saatchi's something to do with advertising, isn't he? 'I wanted it kept secret so there would be no pressure on me. One or two people did ask me, having heard rumours, but I wouldn't confirm it. I wanted to be calm.'
For eight months, she practically withdrew from real life, no parties, no social life, managing on three hours' sleep. 'I worked through the night till six in the morning, going to bed when GMTV came on, and the first bap van came down the street. I'd sleep till about 11 or 12, then start work again. I worked in a sort of frenzy. I'd been offered what could be my chance of a lifetime. I didn't want to turn out crap work.'
Paul also worked the same hours, painting away in his room, she in hers. Was there, is there, any rivalry or jealousy? 'None at all. He nearly died during the eight months, which is a bit worse than any possible jealousy. He got peritonitis and was very, very ill.'
Their only relaxation was watching Rangers at home. 'The Euro matches were wonderful, especially against Marseilles. I keep away from Celtic games. I find the bigotry disturbing, listening to three generations of the same family singing the same bigoted songs.' Away matches they would listen to on the radio, then play back only the Rangers' goals during the week, over and over again, to cheer themselves up. 'That way Rangers never got beaten.'
Jenny's paintings are huge. Plan is 9ft high, as are the three paintings in her triptych. She never saw this complete until it was transported to London and hung at the Saatchi Gallery. 'I only ever managed to see two of them at once, and I had to do that by leaving my room and peering through the doorway.' She worked from scaffolding, being only 5ft 2in, sometimes nude, often using mirrors to help get the flesh right, the pubic hairs
exact.
It is her face in Plan, and also her body, though you might not think so, as the perspective makes it look enormous. 'Women have usually only taken the role of model. I'm both, artist and model. I'm also the viewer, so I have three roles.'
The woman in Plan has target marks on her body, areas mapped out with lines, where she's about to have liposuction to get rid of her fat.
'A lot of women out there look and feel like that, made to fear their own excess, taken in by the cult of exercise, the great quest to be thin. The rhetoric used against obesity makes it sound far worse than alcohol or smoking, yet they can do you far more damage. I'm not painting disgusting, big women. I'm painting women who've been made to think they're big and disgusting, who imagine their thighs go on for ever.
'The history of art has been dominated by men, living in ivory towers, seeing women as sexual objects. I paint women as most women see themselves. I try to catch their identity, their skin, their hair, their heat, their leakiness. I do have this sense with female flesh that things are leaking out. A lot of our flesh is blue, like butcher's meat. In history, pubic hair has always been perfect, painted by men. In real life, it moves around, up your stomach, or down your legs.'
Shades of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud? 'Yeah, other people have said that. If you do figurative painting today you are bound to have been influenced by Freud, but he hasn't been as influential as some people make out. I don't give my figures a setting. They are never in a room. There is no narrative. It's flesh, and the paint itself is the body, but the theory behind each one is essential, as important as the painting. I'm not trying to teach, just make people discuss, look at how women have been made by man. What is beauty? Beauty is usually the male image of the female body. My women are beautiful in their individuality.
'I've been influenced by tabloid newspapers and the diet industry. Friends send me examples and stories from magazines. Did you know that in America, in the big, slick corporations, a woman executive can get a nose job, if she thinks she has a massive nose, as part of her contract? God. Isn't that incredibly disturbing?
'My mother cut out a piece in Cosmo magazine, which is where I first saw the targets on a woman's stomach. I've visited clinics where they do that sort of stuff, suction, electric probes, body wraps, promising to make women thin. I don't reveal I'm a painter. They might think I'm going to expose them, but I'm not.
'I haven't had liposuction myself but I did fall for that body wrap thing where they promise four inches off, or your money back. I actually lost six inches - but what you don't realise is that it's made up of a quarter-inch off each ankle, a centimetre off your wrist. You think it'll all come off your tum. I put it all on again in two days. I'd like to observe plastic surgery, women actually on the operating table, that's my ambition.'
But isn't she in some sense doing women a disservice by making them look so horrible? 'No. Men might well think they look gross, but other people, such as women, will think, that's how we are.'
Don't many people find them a bit disturbing? 'Yes, people say they're good but they couldn't live with them. They're not meant for that. I want them hung in public, all together, so they relate to each other, not be tucked away in people's homes. Mr Saatchi has offered me a contract for another three years. I can't tell you how much. We're discussing it. No, I haven't got an agent. Why do I need one?'
Next month, she and Paul are off to New York. 'There's a group of people who collect British painters. They're supplying us with a house, food, car, materials, everything we need for six months. All we have to do is paint. Everything is looked after.
'When we get back, we'll probably move to London. The problem is, what team will we follow? My uncle's an Arsenal fan and won't forgive me if I go elsewhere. We'll also have to buy a car. I've passed my test, but haven't been able to afford one till now. The future? To keep painting, keep showing, keep the debate going. I think I'll stick to women. I couldn't paint nude men. I don't know what I see. The female body is what I'm knowledgeable about.'

'Young British Artists III', Saatchi Gallery, 98a Boundary Road, London, NW8 ORH (071-624 8299), until end August, Friday- Sunday, noon to 6pm. Fri free, Sat and Sun, pounds 2.
INDEPENDENT



Jenny Saville: for the love of Rubens

Painter Jenny Saville has curated a room of modern works — including her own — in response to the Royal Academy’s blockbuster show devoted to the legacy of her Old Master hero. She talks flesh, Freud and fried eggs with Ben Luke

BEN LUKE
Thursday 15 January 2015

Ever since she burst on the art scene in Charles Saatchi’s Young British Artists III exhibition in 1994, Jenny Saville has found her work described as “Rubenesque”. Not only did her gargantuan paintings of bulky female bodies immediately prompt comparisons with the copious flesh depicted by Rubens, the prince of Baroque painting, but Saville was immediately seen as the upholder of the great painting tradition leading back to him, in the face of the punkish pop and conceptual art of the earlier YBAs such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.


Fast forward 20 years and there’s a chance to see Saville’s and Rubens’s work close together. She was a natural choice to create a room as part of the Royal Academy’s blockbuster show, Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne, opening next week.
Initially she was asked to show her own paintings, but as her works take months to complete, there wasn’t time. “So I said, ‘What about if I curated a little bit of the work, or brought some people together’.” What she has come up with is a series of modern riffs on Rubens by 20th- and 21st-century artists who’ve adopted his extravagant, luscious paint or his conceptual chutzpah and daring. Saville has one huge work in the room — a sort of show-within-a-show to which she has given the title La Peregrina — and she’s surrounded by pieces by contemporaries such as Cecily Brown and Sarah Lucas, as well as work by several of her heroes, including Willem De Kooning, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.
We talk as she’s hanging the pictures. It’s odd meeting her because I’m used to seeing her face uncompromisingly described in her paintings: at the top of a bulky mass of flesh in Propped (1992), for instance, and sideways-on in a two-and-a-half-metre-square canvas with a crimson, almost bloodied mouth in Reverse (2002-03). But Saville’s paintings of herself were never self-portraits as such — she just used her own face because it was to hand, as it were.
In person, she’s nowhere near as big, either in height and weight, as the pictures might lead you to expect. She also looks much younger than her 44 years. And she’s great company, filled with passion for the art around us, relishing the opportunity the RA has given her.
Perhaps surprisingly, she says that De Kooning, the American abstract expressionist, “is the closest person I think of to do with Rubens, because of the fleshy vulgarity, the freedom that De Kooning has in his work”.
“He wasn’t afraid of making that icky, pinky flesh that’s artificial, in the same way that Rubens would, too.”
Talking to her about these artists is exhilarating. She enthuses about Bacon’s bravery, “in that he took on big subjects and found an incredibly original language to do it”; about how Sarah Lucas’s Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab (1992) is “the great nude of the end of the 20th century”; and how Frank Auerbach is “the most Rembrandt-type figure that we’ve got in this country”.
And then there’s Lucian Freud. Even before his death in 2011 she was touted as the heir to Britain’s greatest figurative painter. “I don’t sit around in my studio worrying whether I am or not, to be honest,” she says. “And there are lots of artists to be the heir to.”
But she admits that Freud was a crucial influence. “He was a textbook of painting when I was growing up,” she says. “In Glasgow [at the School of Art, where she studied in the late Eighties and Nineties], sitting on the floor in the life room, you wanted to know how to paint a nipple? Look to Freud. So, a bit of lemon yellow, put that round the aureole and you’re off.”
Given the luxuriousness of paint elsewhere in the room, Saville’s own work on show here, The Voice of the Shuttle, is surprisingly pared down — a vast drawing featuring two severed heads at the top (“I’ve got lots of images of decapitated heads,” she laughs), above an ambiguous pile of bodies. The only colour in the work’s a bloody red amid the charcoal mist.
AN_60474762-(Read-Only).jpg
Pared down: Jenny Saville's drawing The Voice of the Shuttle (Picture: Getty)
It’s inspired by Philomela, the Roman poet Ovid’s story of rape, mutilation, cannibalism and revenge, painted by Rubens. “Rape scenes are all over art history and I’ve always been interested in that — it’s one of those subjects that you can’t possibly confront. And so I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it then’.” Saville brings the myth into the contemporary world. “There are lots of references to war,” she says, pointing to the background. “This is from a road in Rwanda, there’s actually a bicycle underneath here, different massacres — I read quite a bit about what causes mass killings, and the idea that rape is used as a weapon in war.”
We wander into the mid-hang Rubens show proper (it’s already looking magnificent) and Saville leads me to another rape scene, Rubens’s tiny oil sketch for The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus. “The movement’s really lovely, isn’t it?” she smiles. It’s a strikingly modest work compared to the grand Baroque canvases elsewhere. “When I see that,” she says, “I feel like that’s the real Rubens.”
Her love of the Old Masters began early. “By the age of  eight I was a committed artist,” she explains. “Already I had decided that was what I was going to do with my life.” She would draw relentlessly and her aptitude for art was picked up by her art historian uncle — in her teens she became his “dogsbody” on art historical tours of great cities.
“I learned to draw in the Rialto fish market [in Venice]. I got up every morning at six and drew,” she remembers. “And I used to drink red wine and Coca-Cola with them, because that’s what they would drink, and by 9.30 I’d be so pissed.”
Perhaps inevitably, Saville was a precocious talent. She was only 21 when she was “discovered”. “I had Charles Saatchi phone me up, and put me on a plane to London and and make a show,” she recalls. “I had just left college, so that was a little bit of a lottery ticket, I have to say.”
Funded by Saatchi, she finished several paintings for the 1994 show that created an immediate storm. But while she featured in Sensation, that defining exhibition in the Nineties, she chose to retreat from the UK scene, “because it was such a big deal, the YBA thing, and my instinct is always to go against what’s fashionable. So I went to America.”


Since then she’s moved between New York, Palermo — where she struck up a friendship with another hero, painter Cy Twombly, before his death in 2011 — and now Oxford. She has had surprisingly few solo exhbitions in the UK; her first dedicated London show was last year and reflected a more open, abstract style. “People had quite typecast me from the show that I did with Saatchi, and that’s a different artist from me now,” she says.
She believes that having her two children, as well as travelling, allowed her to become “more worldly” and this “opened out my work, I wasn’t just this ‘British figurative painter’”.
She jealously guards the “preciousness of that universe, my studio”, cut off from the machinery and business of the art world, working night and day, engaging with the masters she’s showing in her RA room, as well as Rembrandt, Titian and, of course, Rubens.

“It’s that debate with history,” she says. “I don’t feel the need to think, ‘I’ve got to show in the next six months otherwise my name will be forgotten’. I don’t have that energy, what I think is a wasted energy. Because you’re better off just making the work.”


Jenny Saville
Red Stare Head IV, 2006-2011

JENNY SAVILLE'S BIOGRAPHY


Born in 1970, Cambridge, England
Lives and works in Palermo, Italy
 


SOLO EXHIBITIONS


2010 
Jenny Saville, Gagosian Gallery, London 

2005 Jenny Saville, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome. 

2004 Large Scale Polaroids by Jenny Saville and Glen LuchfordUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst, East Gallery. 

2003 Migrants, Gagosian Gallery, New York (Chelsea). 

2002 Jenny Saville/Glen Luchford: Closed Contact, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills.

1999 Territories, Gagosian Gallery, New York (SoHo) 

1996 Jenny Saville/Glen Luchford: A Collaboration, Pace McGill Gallery, New York 


GROUP EXHIBITIONS


2010 
Crash, Gagosian Gallery, London 

2009 
Paint Made Flesh, memorial Art Gallery Of The University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 
Paint Made Flesh, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC 
Paint Made Flesh, First Centre For The Visual Arts, Nashville, TN 

2007 
Global Feminism, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 
Berlinde de Bruyckere, Jenny Saville, Dan Flavin, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern 
All The More Real, Portrayals of Intimacy and Empathy, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton,NY 
Global feminisms remix, Booklyn museum Of Art, New York City, NY 
Summer Show, Gagosian Gallery, West 24th Street, New York City, NY 
Timer 01, Triennale Bovisa, Milan 
Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum Of Art, New York City, NY 

2006 
POW! QPCA, Quality pictures, Portland, OR 
Zuruck Zur Figur, Malerei Der Gegnwart, Kunsthalle Der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich 
Speaking with Hands, Museum Folkwang Essen, Essen 
Damien Hirst, David Salle, Jenny Saville, The bilotti Chapel, Museo carlo Bilotti, Rome 
British Art, a post war collection, Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London 
Painting Codes, GC.AV, Galleria Comunale D’arte Contemporanea de Monfalcone, Monfalcone 

2005 
The Figure In and Out of Space, Gagosian Gallery, 
New York (Chelsea) 
Il Male. Esercizi di Pittura Crudele, 
Pallazina di Caccia di Stupinigi, Turin, Italy 

2004 
Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London. 
Drawings, Gagosian Gallery, London (Heddon) 
SITE Sante Fe’s Fifth International Biennial: 
Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque (curated by Robert Storr), SITE Santa Fe, NM (through 2005). 
Galleon and Other Stories, the Saatchi Gallery, London. 

2003 
50th International Biennale di Venezia: 
Painting (curated by Francesco Bonami), 
Museo Correr, Venice, Italy 

2002 
The Physical World: An Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Gagosian Gallery, New York. 
The Nude In 20th Century Art, Kunsthalle Emden, Germany. 
Traveled to: Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen (through 2003). 
Women, Eyestorm Gallery, London. 

2001 
Les Voluptes (curated by E. Winner), 
Borusan Centre for Contemporary Art, Istanbul, Turkey. 
Narcissus, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. 
Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT. 
Traveled to Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, CA (through 2002). 
Naked Since 1950, C&M Arts, New York. 
Art, Age and Genders, Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, England. 
Traveled to: Usher Gallery, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England; New Greenham Arts, Newbury, Berkshire, England (through 2004). 

2000 
Painting the Century: 101 Masterpieces, 1900-2000, National Portrait Gallery, London (through 2001). 
Ant Noises 2, the Saatchi Gallery, London. 
Ant Noises, the Saatchi Gallery, London. 

1999 
Unconvention (curated by Jeremy Deller), Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff, Wales (through 2000). 
The Nude in Contemporary Art (curated by Harry Philbrick and Richard Klein),
The Aldrich Museum of Art, Ridgefield, CT. 
The Figure: Another Side of Modernism (curated by Lily Wei), the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, NY. 

1998 
Extensions of the Body—Aspects of the Figure, Joseloff Gallery, University of Hartford, CT. 
Close Echoes—Public Bodies and Artificial Space, Kunsthalle, Prague, Czech Republic. 
The Ugly Show (curated by Moira Innes), Bracknell Arts Center, Leeds, England. 
Traveled to: Metropolitan University, Leeds, England. 

1997 
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy of the Arts, London. 
Traveled to: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY (through 1999). 
From the Interior, Kingston University, London. 
Traveled to: Brighton City Art Gallery, England; Ferrens Gallery, Hull, England 

1996 
Bad Blood, Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. 
Contemporary British Art ’96, Museum of Kalmar, Stockholm. 
Sad, Gasworks, London. 
Art On, Halmstadt, Sweden 

1995 
American Passion: The Susan Kasen Summer and Robert D. Summer Collection of Contemporary British Painting (curated by Susie Allen, RCA and Stefan Van Raay), McLellan Galleries, Glasgow, Scotland. 
Traveled to: Royal College of Art, London; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT. 
The Continuing Tradition: 75 Years of Painting, Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. 

1994 
Young British Artists III, the Saatchi Gallery, London 

1993 
SSA, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Critics Choice, Cooling Gallery, London 

1990 
Contemporary ’90, Royal College of Art, London. 
British Portrait Competition, National Portrait Gallery, London 

1989 
Self Portraits, The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland
Kerry Long
Columbia University

 http://www.brain-juice.com/cgi-bin/show_wok.cgi?p_id=77&w_id=206



Fulcrum (1998)
Jenny Saville

SELECTED WORKS


  • Branded (1992). Oil painting on a 7' × 6' canvas. In this painting, Saville painted her own face onto an obese female body. The size of the breasts and midsection is very exaggerated. The figure in the painting is holding folds of her skin which she is seemingly showing off.

  • Plan (1993). Oil painting on a 9' × 7' canvas. This painting depicts a nude female figure with contour lines marked on her body, much like that of a topographical map. Saville said of this work: "The lines on her body are the marks they make before you have liposuction done to you. They draw these things that look like targets. I like this idea of mapping of the body, not necessarily areas to be cut away, but like geographical contours on a map. I didn't draw on to the body. I wanted the idea of cutting into the paint. Like you would cut into the body. It evokes the idea of surgery. It has lots of connotations."

  • Fulcrum (1999). Oil painting on an 8 1/2' × 16' canvas. In this painting, three obese women are piled on a medical trolley. Thin vertical strips of tape have been painted over and then pulled off the canvas, thus creating a sense of geometric measure at odds with the mountainous flesh.

  • Hem (1999). Oil painting on a 10' x 7'canvas. This painting depicts a very large nude female with lots of subtle textures implied. The bits of orange showing through the stomach add a glow, while the figure's left side is covered with thick white paint as if by a plaster cast, and her pubic area, painted pink over dark brown, resembles carved painted wood.

  • Hybrid (1997). Oil painting on a 7' × 6' canvas. In this painting, the image looks much like patchwork. Different components of four female bodies are incorporated together to create a unique piece.

  • Ruben's Flap (1998–1999). Oil painting on a 10' × 8' canvas. This painting depicts Saville herself; she multiplies her body, letting it fill the canvas space as it does in other works, but what is interesting is the fragmentation. Decisive lines divide the body into square planes, and it appears that she is trying to hide the nakedness with the different planes. Saville seems to be struggling to convince herself that the parts of her body are beautiful.

  • Matrix (1999). Oil painting on a 7' × 10' canvas. In this painting, Saville depicts a reclining nude figure with female breasts and genitalia, but with a masculine, bearded face. The genitalia are thrust to the foreground, making them much more of a focus in the picture than the gaze. The arms and legs of the figure are only partly seen, the extremities lying outside the boundary of the picture. The whole is painted in fairly naturalistic fleshy tones.

  • Saville also created a series of photographs known as Closed Contact (1995–1996). She collaborated with artist Glen Luchford to create a series of C-prints depicting a larger female nude lying on plexiglas. The photos were taken from underneath the glass and depict the female figure very distorted.




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