Art lecture – Jenny Saville

I was so excited to sit in a lecture at the Art Aloud exhibition, Chatsworth House. I’ve been more aware of her early works, quite grimly realistic fleshy figures.

We watched her in conversation with Nicholas Cullinan, the director of the Portrait Gallery.

Jenny explained how her early works were influenced by Michaelangelo statues. She is interested in feminist studies.

This was part of her graduation show, and the backwards writing was shown next to a mirror, so it could be read and the viewer see their own body. She says she is influenced by Sherman, Freud and Bacon, and that from an early age women are taught to be looked at.

She says she was ridiculed at art school for painting naked women.

She say these liposuction marks on a body in a magazine, and felt they had a landscape like quality to them. A large painting – 10 by 7 feet.

This shows bra and pants marks – she says she took the photo of herself after wearing tight underwear for 4 days. She says she felt brave for removing the head – she wanted the attention not to be on the head.

She said this was inspired by David Lynch ‘a curtain of flesh’.

These paintings take up to 2 years. She keeps a sketchbook by her bed and takes many photos. She said she painted by looking in a mirror and painting without looking at it.

She watched plastic surgery operations and saw flesh being pulled – she developed a technique of scraping through paint as if it were being pulled.

‘Poor’ was inspired from collecting images around 9/11. This image was of an Israeli emerging from a suicide bombing. ‘Entity’ was the image of a dead person from a medical book. She liked that you couldn’t be sure if the person was dead or alive, and if she was the victim or not.

This is a very fluid painting, paint drips down. She says it was inspired by a Rembrandt self portrait. ‘Rosetta 2’ is of a blind girl in Italy. She says it was inspired by a painting of the ecstasy of St Theresa she kept seeing the image of, on a bus.

She showed us ‘Door to the river’ by De Kooning and said what an influence his choice of colours were. She took notes from what he left in his studio when she visited after his death.

She talked about how he ran colours through each other to make nuance tones. She said she challenged herself to see if she could make this work for her figurative style. She says she makes the backgrounds on the floor with rollers. Also now, she paints with a brush on a stick to take away control and make features appear out of abstract marks.

The slide show of her work showed how she has evolved in 20 years. I like her later work just because the variety of abstract marks makes it so interesting to look at.


Blind contour drawing of Jenny Saville

I did a little drawing while she was answering questions.

What did I learn from today? That she has many influences -and I need to look up De Kooning. To try painting with the brush on a stick again. Try scraping paint, try running one colour through another and seeing what happens. Keep noting ideas in my sketchbook. A very entertaining hour!




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