September 12, 2012

Big Picture, Big Draw

Jenny Saville with her painting "Plan" taken by Glynn Griffiths in 1994.
People by the thousands have been visiting my blog recently. On September 9 I had 5,164 visits to the blog. In the four days from the 8th to the 11th I had 8,624 visitors.
For a blog that gets a respectable 200 or 250 on a good day, these numbers are sensational.
Suddenly my art had been discovered by the masses? After all my last two posts were about my current show in downtown Pittsfield.
No such luck, according to the statistics generated daily for my site. The big draw was Glynn Griffiths' 1994 portrait of the British artist Jenny Saville, her painting Plan towering over the artist then in her early 20s.
Someone - actually lots of someones - was looking for that photo. And if you Google Jenny Saville and go to "images" you'll find that my site is the only place you could find it. (Of course you can find it on other sites if you add the photographers name and the title of the painting.
I used the photo with my post about Saville on July 19, 2006.

The lines that look like a topographic map here, I learned today, are derived instead from her study of liposuction and plastic surgery. I thought then and think now that Saville is one of the best contemporary painters. 

The self portrait above is extraordinary. From the moment I saw it, this piece was one of my favorites. The way she applies paint is masterful. The composition is spectacular. The wet, open mouth is arresting and disturbing. The painting, like many of hers, is confrontational, demanding, sensational.

Above and below are two of her recent paintings. She is now 42 and I like the stuff she was doing 20 years ago better. But she will be painting for a long time. I'm anxious to see what she comes up with.

Here's one of those earlier works, a commanding painting.

Here's a current photo of Saville, the mother of two children, in her studio in Oxford, England.
"It feels as if Saville is the lovechild of Willem de Kooning's violent misogyny and Lucian Freud's carnal hunger who, somehow, popped out as kind of a feminist," writes Priscilla Frank in the Huffington Post. I think Frank has it right.
Frank had another great line in her profile: "Her paintings are tender, not as in tender feelings but more like tender meat."
In an article in The Guardian by Rachel Cooke, I learned that it was while Saville was at Cincinnati University she was captivated by the sight of obese women at shopping malls. They became the subject of her 1992 graduate show at Glasgow University, a show that captivated Charles Saatchi - the British collector who introduced the crop of "Young British Artists" in the Sensation show, which seemed to have shifted the center of the art world from New York to Boston.
"I want to be a painter of modern life, and modern bodies..." Saville told the Guardian.
"In Britain, there has been a drive in art schools to describe and to rationalise what it is that you're making, and that is a death knell to painting," Saville said in regard to conceptual art.
America is more attuned to painting than England, she said, suggesting that might be because New York was the center of the last period of great painting - the Abstract Expressionists.

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