Extended through July 23, 2018
I’m trying to see if it’s possible to hold onto that moment of perception, or have several moments coexist. . . . Like looking at a memory.
Gagosian is pleased to present Ancestors, new paintings by Jenny Saville.
In her drawings and paintings, Saville transcends the boundaries of both classical figuration and modern abstraction in her depiction of the human form. Her work reveals a deep awareness, both intellectual and sensory, of how the body has been represented over time and across cultures—from antique and Hindu sculpture to Renaissance drawing and painting to the work of modern artists such as Henri Matisse, Willem de Kooning, and Pablo Picasso.
In this exhibition, Saville depicts the body from the perspective of classical sculpture. The immense canvases recall archetypes from religion and mythology, such as the pietà, the Fates, and the Greek figure of Danaë, who was impregnated by Zeus in a shower of golden rain. The story of Danaë is a popular subject in Renaissance painting, its ethereal cloud and startling sexuality serving as a representational challenge. Titian, master colorist of the Venetian School, famously depicted the scene in the mid-sixteenth century; Saville’s figures, even when recognizable from historical narrative, are at the same time unmistakably of the present moment, merging allusion with immediate sensation.
Saville has always been fascinated by the visceral palpability of the human body. In 1994 she spent time observing a plastic surgeon at work, in order to study the construction of human flesh in much the same way as Renaissance artists did, in their study of bodies and cadavers, to produce anatomical drawings and écorchés. In Saville’s new paintings, the marks and traces of painting and drawing merge with their sculptural subjects, as well as with the living, changing, and perishable forms that figurative art depicts. Each of Saville’s brushstrokes contains both the mass and musculature of the body, and the expression of line and gesture. Their physical and metaphysical layering evokes age-old questions pertaining to the representation of human flesh: narrow marks allude to the shape of forms, and broader marks to their internal surfaces.
The paintings in Ancestors envelop the viewer’s field of vision. The energy of the bodies and their raw human qualities are often confronting in their improvised, non finito appearance, as if the forms—often of floating or indeterminate gender, and always subject to change—are emerging from an inchoate mass before our eyes. In painting the human body, Saville reflects the mutability of human behavior itself.
Jenny Saville: Ancestors
In this video, Jenny Saville speaks about Ancestors and her new works currently on view at Gagosian, West 21st Street, New York.
Jenny Saville and Nicholas Cullinan
Jenny Saville speaks with Nicholas Cullinan, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, from her studio. They discuss portraiture, her latest work, and her art historical influences, as well as the shifting nature of perception in the age of digital communication.
Five Preoccupations: Jenny Saville
Jenny Saville shares a selection of the books, films, and more that have been her companions in the quiet of the shutdowns in recent months and as she looks ahead to a new exhibition next year.
Sally Mann and Jenny Saville
The two artists discuss being drawn to difficult subjects, the effects of motherhood on their practice, embracing chance, and their shared adoration of Cy Twombly.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
July 22–28, 2020
In her depictions of the human form, Jenny Saville transcends the boundaries of both classical figuration and modern abstraction. Oil paint, applied in heavy layers, becomes as visceral as flesh itself, each painted mark maintaining a supple, mobile life of its own. As Saville pushes, smears, and scrapes the pigment over her large-scale canvases, the distinctions between living, breathing bodies and their painted representations begin to collapse.
Photo: courtesy the artist