12.9.11

Representations: Jenny Saville the fleshy female



Jenny Saville & Glen Luchford. Closed Contact. (2003). C-print mounted in plexiglass. 
Once on a roll inertia takes care of the rest... there are so many great practitioners with skin-related offerings that I just can't wait to present here!

Jenny Saville is one such artist.  Skin in these works is expansive and sensual; imprinted with a visceral vitality as it envelopes the folds and fleshy forms of female body, it is caught in moments of vulnerability, ponderousness, and in pain after brutal interventions. The sheer size of these canvasses is astounding, viewers are overwhelmed by walls of skin in all its confronting glory.




An English painter and one of those Young British Artists, Saville's entire senior show was notably purchased by leading British art collector Charles Saatchi, who then commissioned works for the next two years. Impressive, no? Best known for her monumental women, usually self portraits, Saville spent substantial time observing plastic surgery operations in New York and draws on these experiences as subject matter for her traditional figurative oil paintings. 

Surgeries, liposuction, trauma victims, deformity correction, disease states and transgender patients feature heavily in images that are highly emotive and strongly pigmented. In the Closed Contact series, Saville collaborated with fashion photographer Glenn Luchford to capture the full range of color, tonality, and topography of live flesh through her own body. Flesh is manipulated and animated by gripping hands as the contorted body is pressed against glass sheets. Exploring the violence and anesthetized pain of observed surgeries, Saville's distorted bodies range from the grotesque to great, ponderous beauty.

Jenny Saville & Glen Luchford. From the Closed Contact series











On a secondary note, I find it particularly interesting that Saville's subjects roughly fall into two categories: bodies are either curiously disembodied and exposed to the intense scrutiny of observers, or the subjects gaze past the viewer, inviting entry into that moment of experience. Whether these vacant stares are out of  numbness or obliviousness is ambiguous, but it would be interesting to spend a bit of time on a feminist analysis of her work, especially in comparison to other forms of female carnal art (Orlan being the main culprit).

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