Lot 56: JENNY SAVILLE
Contemporary Art, Evening
November 9, 2004
New York, NY, USA
signed, titled and dated 1992 on the reverse
oil on canvas
Acquired by the present owner from Jenny Saville's breakthrough exhibition at the Cooling Gallery in 1993, Factor 8 has not been seen in the public eye since. Typical of this groundbreaking body of work, the mountainous expanse of sensuous flesh literally covers the canvas, subject matter which has become her hallmark. Many critics have likened Saville's work to that of the "greatest living painter", Lucian Freud, which seems remarkable given her relative youth. Visually there is an artistic similarity, given both painters' commitment to the raw depiction of the human figure during a period of great movement away from the figurative. However, while Freud was often more interested in the body within a wider composition, Saville has focused upon the body as composition itself, enveloping the canvas and erupting into the viewers' space.
Saville's work is infused with a conceptual edge born of her strong interest in feminist theory and driven by an acute awareness of identity politics. Saville took up the torch of sexual discourse explored by such illustrious predecessors as Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. However, most of these artists worked with the tradition of photography and sculpture, while Saville creates large scale elaborations of her own body in paint. Larger than lifesize and cast against a neutral background, Saville's upper body dominates the composition. Captured in an intimate moment of reflection, the withdrawn intensity of her downward stare is enhanced by the hand which clutches at her cheek with a mixture of longing, defiance and self-loathing: a powerful ambiguity that lies at the heart of Saville's work, neither inviting scorn nor demanding pity. With her breasts occupying the bottom two corners of the canvas, Saville masterfully accentuates traditional concepts of perspective to create a heightened sense of grandeur, pushing her body upward within the composition, towards her raised arms. Brilliantly amalgamating empathy and rejection through her sensuous passages of subtly applied colour and texture, Saville effortlessly provokes our own corporeal and gender anxieties as the canvas becomes flesh.
Cooling Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1993
Dimensions: 51 by 38 1/2 in. 129.5 by 97.8 cm.
Exhibited: London, Cooling Gallery, Critic's Choice, 1993
Date: B. 1970