Jenny Saville Hardcover – Nov 8 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. British painter Saville has had a charmed career. As a student at the Glasgow School of Art, she sold out her graduation exhibit. (One of the paintings was bought by no less than Charles Saatchi.) At 27, she was included in the acclaimed (and, in New York City, notorious) Sensation show. And now, at 35, she is widely chatted about as one of Britain's most important young artists. One look at this gorgeous monograph, Saville's first, proves that all this success is well earned.Arranged chronologically, with paintings from 1992 to 2005, the volume reveals that though Saville's subject matter has hardly changed, her use of paint has evolved by leaps and bounds. Like Lucian Freud, Saville's fascinated with the body and the pigmentation of flesh, but her visions of it are both darker and brighter than his. Many of her paintings feature bodies that have been manipulated or damaged—by gender-changing plastic surgery, say, or by burns—but her rendering of these states is brilliantly colored. And in the most recent paintings ("Stare," "Passage," "Torso 2") the subject is set against a background of warm, Mediterranean blue that heightens both the images' beauty and their capacity to unnerve.Schama's interview with Saville—the best of the texts included here—provides insight into the artist's methods and her ambition to keep improving technically ("I can barely look at the earlier paintings I made"), while the many photographs of her studio, drafts and source material show the ordinary-looking origins of her work, and the many close-shots record her expressionist use of paint. While no book can convey the power of Saville's oversize canvases, this well-composed volume provides an illuminating survey of her work. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Simon Schama is the art critic for the New Yorker as well as a world-renowned scholar. Schama has taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard and is now Professor of History at Columbia University where specializes in European cultural and environmental history and art history. Between 1999 and 2002 he wrote, presented, and filmed the fifteen-part A History of Britain for BBC Television. He is currently at work on a book about the Anglo-American relationship and an eight part television series for the BBC, The Power of Art.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Not that Saville was the first painter to dwell on the massively/morbidly obese female (Freud's 'carcasses' were startlingly new, Haneline Rogeberg has painted the full figured female for years, etc), but her superimposition of surgical alteration and disease states together with the painterly style of describing flesh are startling and awe inspiring. Placing multiple figures together ('Fulcrum') or conjoined or simply overloading the capacity of a sitter's stool emphasizes the magnitude of her thoughts on her very large canvases.
Many people are grumbling about the design of the book and the paucity of completed works and to an extent this is reason for concern. The four essays may be old to those who have followed her career, but to those to whom Jenny Saville is a discovery these four writings do add depth to understanding her skyrocketing rise to fame. It is terrific to see photographs of the materials in her studio that have inspired her paintings: drawings, surgical photographs of liposuction, trauma victims, deformity correction, disease states, transgender patients and notes all add to the atmosphere of the studio where she works.
Perhaps the next monograph, and there surely will be one as Saville continues to grow and mature, will give us more new work. Until then at least we have a large book that congregates the bulk of her work and for that we should be grateful! Recommended. Grady Harp, December 05
The positive aspects of the book are: well, there's finally a book on Saville and the photos of her studies, references and studio a well done, in fact there could be more. They do provide detail shots of her painting, which is mandatory with her work considering the scale. However, the few positives can't make up for a very poor book overall on an important contemporary artist.
One reviewer said, "Move over Lucian Freud", I think not. A comparison cannot be made until Saville is in her 80's, then we'll (well someone will) talk. While her earlier work is very impressive, I'm becoming concerned about where she is going paint wise. The earlier work has "character", the newer work and pieces from the Migrants exhibition seem slick, rushed and overly pretty. The new work also lacks the conceptual strength of the early work (her weak point anyway). It seems to me she's becoming a cliché of herself. The best comparison I can think of is the animation style of the early Simpsons or South Park compared to later years. The rough edges and distinctiveness have disappeared, replaces by standardization and predictability, never a good thing for an artist. I hope that this phase of Saville's career will pass quickly.
Final Score 4 out of 10