In spite of what some might still say about the death of painting in contemporary art, this genre undeniably keeps producing internationally renowned artists who use this classic medium to renew figurative art and push the boundaries of representation. British artist Jenny Saville is one big sign that painting is very much alive! A master of the classical technique, her representation of bodies is nonetheless profoundly modern and reflects the big issues of our time.
1. Her fascination with obese people
While she was studying fine art in Glasgow, Jenny Saville won a 6-month scholarship to study at Cincinnati University. It was her first encounter with the United States and the sight of obese women in shopping malls that sparked her artistic fascination for overweight bodies.
#2 Saatchi’s protegé
During her show at London’s Cooling Gallery in 1993, the famous art collector Charles Saatchi spotted her work. She was a talented yet unknown young woman artist. Back then, she had not even attended the show because she could not afford the train ticket from Glasgow to London. Saatchi tracked down the paintings that had been purchased in Glasgow and bought them for his own collection. Shortly after he had her producing for his gallery under contract.
#3 Young British Artist
It’s hard to believe but Jenny Saville was one of the artists exhibited –the only “classical” painter- at the famous Young British Artists’ scandalous show entitled “Sensation” at the Royal Academy of Art in 1997, next to Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Chris Ofili and some others.
#4 Yet Not Fond of Hirst anymore
Though they started in the same movement, Jenny Saville regrets that Damien Hirst’s work has become much more about the mechanisms of the art world than the art itself, and that the soul has gone as she declared in an interview.
#5 Plastic Surgery
When Jenny Saville moved to New York after the success of her first shows in 1994, she spent long hours observing the work of a plastic surgeon based in the city. Taking photographs while standing in on cosmetic surgeries and liposuctions, she observed. On some of her most famous nude paintings, women’s bodies show the lines that surgeons typically draw on patient’s before undergoing liposuctions.
#6 Jenny and Pop Rock
In 1994, Jenny agreed for the Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers to use her work as the cover of their album for free.
#7 Herself as a model
Jenny Seville uses her own body for many of her paintings. As a start, it’s a rather reliable source since she is there all the time. But she also likes the idea of using herself because it takes her into the work. And not just being the person looking.
#8 Her Tricks
Since she paints on large format, Jenny Saville often resorts to scaffoldings to reach every part of her canvases. There are also 7 mirrors in her London studio placed at different corners to give her the necessary distance and perspective of her work.
#9 Palermo,her shelter
While she was heading back to London in 2003, she stopped for a day to visit Palermo. She fell in love with this city where layers of civilizations have piled up on one another. She now spends part of the year there and considers it her artistic retreat away from the London tumultuous life. It is also a way to be closer to the Italian masters.
#10 Saville and Schiele side by side
Often affiliated with Lucien Freud of Francis Bacon, Jenny Saville’s work will be confronted with another modern master known for his tortured human representations: the Austrian Egon Schiele. The Kunsthaus Zürich museum puts up an exhibition to create a dialogue between the works of both artists. A truly awaited event!