Jenny Saville Conjures a Tempestuous Self-Portrait for the Final Gagosian ‘Artist Spotlight’

 

 

If there is an artist for this moment, certainly it is Jenny Saville. As one of the early ’90s YBA (Young British Artists), her riveting, Ruben-esque portraits of nude women vividly challenged the accepted stereotypes of the female artistic muse. As further confirmation of her cultural cred, the Manic Street Preachers would go on to choose works of hers for two separate album covers; and her Stare gracing the front of their 2005 release Journal For Plague Lovers caused what was a certainly unnecessary scandal amongst nervous retailers.

Her place in the art world pantheon was certainly certified (as if it needed to be) when her 1992 painting Propped was sold by Sotheby’s London recently for £9.5 million, a record amount for a living female artist. But her work is especially poignant as we continue to struggle through our various coronavirus quarantines, as many have been left alone to face down their own body images, having been freed from so many workaday distractions. And in the psychological turbulence of her striking new self-portrait, fittingly titled Virtual, we may indeed find parallels to our own COVID-generated turmoil.

It was executed specifically for Gagosian’s new weekly Artist Spotlight, launched during the quarantine as a way to generate art world energy while physical galleries remained closed. Some Gagosian European galleries have since re-opened.

 

 

“It’s as much about painting as about portraiture,” Saville explains. “Realism is what concerns me most. I’ve been trying to find ways to stretch a feeling of time by layering realities. After working on an image for a while, building up different poses, bodies or limbs start to intertwine and unexpected forms emerge.—what can reality look like in twenty-first-century painting? I once read a quote by Georges Bataille about an upside-down head in which the mouth exists where the eyes should be—and how violent and disconcerting it is to see gleaming teeth and lips at the top of a head.”

It is, in fact, the last in the Artist Spotlight series, and also commemorates the artist recently turning 50—perhaps a particularly poignant milestone for someone who first became successful as part of a confrontational youth movement, of sorts.

“I’ve been trying to find ways to stretch a feeling of time by layering realities,” she reflects. “After working on an image for a while, building up different poses, bodies or limbs start to intertwine and unexpected forms emerge.”

And nothing could be more relevant right now, than that which is unexpected.

 

JENNY SAVILLE
© Photo courtesy the artist and Gagosian
 
JENNY SAVILLE
Virtual, 2020
Oil on canvas
78 3/4 x 63 in
200 x 160 cm
© Jenny Saville
Courtesy Gagosian
JENNY SAVILLE
Virtual, 2020, detail
Oil on canvas
78 3/4 x 63 in
200 x 160 cm
© Jenny Saville
Courtesy Gagosian
 
JENNY SAVILLE
Virtual, 2020
Oil on canvas
78 3/4 x 63 in
200 x 160 cm
© Jenny Saville
Courtesy Gagosian
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