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JENNY SAVILLE | 'Separates'
January 23rd 2024
Persistently challenging modern-day perceptions of conventional beauty, Jenny Saville offers a new perspective to a story that throughout history was often told by men. The brush strokes may resemble Lucian Freud and the divine fleshy palette of Rubens, but ultimately, these are female portraits - powerful rather than beautiful - and painted by a woman. Early shows, ‘YBA III’ and ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, placed Saville in the spot light, quickly associating her as one of the young British artists in the nineties; a starting point of a career now in its fourth decade which has reaped numerous achievements for the artist. The first lithographic edition, Separates, follows the characteristics of Saville’s works and palette, although distinctively different in medium and technique.
by Henrik Riis
PRINT EDITION RELEASE
The instant Saville read the yellow post-it note hanging loosely on the door to her studio, she knew it was either a prank or lifechanging. It simply read “call Charles Saatchi”. At 21 years old and a recent graduate, her two paintings on display at the graduation show at the Glasgow School of Art were already raising eyebrows amongst spectators, not only for their immense size, stretching almost 2 by 2 metres, but for the lively fleshy palette giving a novel representation of the female body. Saville’s works clearly stood out from the works of her fellows students. One of her paintings, ‘Propped’ - a seated nude full-body self-portrait painted from a low angle and with a quote of a French feminist scribbled in the background - grabbed the attention of the picture editor of The Times to such extend that it made the front cover of the newspaper. A few days later, the most astute art collector in the early nineties, Charles Saatchi, decided to give Saville a call and invited her to London. Strolling through Saatchi’s impressive building on Boundary Road, he offered the young artist an opportunity, with a grant attached, to create a body of works for a future exhibition. Less than two years from the questionable post-it note, the doors opened to ‘Young British Artists III’ at Saatchi Gallery, making Saville one of Britain’s young and most sought-after artists.

Saville’s overnight fame was not simply down to the odd chance meeting, but based on an incredible talent and a solid foundation instilled early in life that an artist’s dedication to the work is crucial. At eight years old, her uncle and a painter himself, Paul Saville, took the young Saville on an educational trip, starting with museum visits to see the Flemish masters like Rembrandt, Rubens and Hals hanging at the Rijksmuseum; and then continued the learning by dragging her around the streets of Amsterdam, to show her the house of Rembrandt, the bars he went to, and the city scenery portrayed in some of his paintings.

The time spent with her uncle, drawing and painting next to him, taught Saville what the life of a real artist looked like. Treasuring observation, keeping discipline, and a dedication to the finished painting became life skills that eventually brought the young artist to Glasgow School of Art, and a few years later filled the walls at Saatchi Gallery in London.

Famously portrayed by Titian in the sixteenth century - often touching a subject matter of beauty and forbidden lust - most nude female characters painted right through history had one thing in common. The stories were told and painted by men. Saville on the contrary challenged this perception and started to tell her stories of the naked female form through the eyes of a twentieth-century woman. In her work, women were natural, unapologetic, powerful and every so often seen in unconventional poses, sometimes even entangled. The fleshy palette used to portray the subject’s skin was uneven, had no corrections and offered a contrast to the airbrushed women seen in magazines in the eighties and nineties.

Her artist residence in Connecticut in ‘96 would have a notable impact on her practice. Through a couple who collected Saville’s work, she was introduced to a plastic surgeon in New York who not only let her to be an observer during some operations, but also allowed her access to the library at NY Academy of Medicine on East 102nd St.. Long studies in the library, combined with experiencing the “brutality” of surgery, offered a new perspective - one of a medical surgeon - where the body and flesh is seen as components and layers, rather than one object. By applying a similar structure and layering to her large-scale canvases, fresh techniques found way into her practice, empowering Saville to further excel in her portrayal of the naked female body. Her solo show, ‘Territories’, at Gagosian gallery in Wooster St., NY, in 1999 was a direct result of the success of her newly learned skills; a ground-breaking and sold-out exhibition that cemented Saville’s position as one of the most promising artists of the nineties.
JENNY SAVILLE
Separates, 2001

Edition of 100
94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.20(w) x 27.01(h) inches
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JENNY SAVILLE
Separates, 2001

Edition of 100
94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.20(w) x 27.01(h) inches
ENQUIRY
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Separates , 2001

94(w) x 68(h) cm
37.20(w) x 27.01(h) inches
10 colour lithograph on Somerset Velvet paper-

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 100
Available from a private collection
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“Make your heroes great!”, her uncle had one day proclaimed as they admired the vast works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian. Four words that settled with Saville in the early days. Every piece on display at the show in New York was exactly that; enormous and beyond what most would expect. ‘Hyphen’, a self-portrait of a young Saville and her sister - the two painted so close together as if they were conjoined twins - hung at three-and-a-half meters wide, imposing themselves and leaving no escape. Her subjects appear magnified onto canvas, and while keeping the backdrop abstract or indefinable, she directs the focus of the viewer. The impressive portrait of the two sisters would at the turn of the millennium become the basis of the artist’s experimentation with works on paper. In the print edition titled Separates, the two “heroes” are scaled down, but although distinctly different from her paintings, the result is as recognisable as her canvases, clearly showing vibrant brushstrokes, textures and layers.

The dedication to her life as an artist and an observer is clearly visible. Always developing, Saville’s diverse influences have over the decades included the practises of other artists, ranging from the fleshy colour palette formed by the old masters, to abstract expressionist methods by Willem de Kooning; modern-day medical techniques; and personal life events, such as the birth of her children that inspired her series ‘Stare Heads’ (2006-2011).

The early exhibition at Saatchi Gallery in London in 1994 had a significant impact on Saville early success, and her inclusion three years later in the infamous ‘Sensation’ show at the Royal Academy, showcasing works from Saatchi’s personal collection, opened doors which Saville was quick to explore. Today, the artist’s work sits in some of the most prestigious public collections in the world and pursued by private collectors to an extend where early works, such as ‘Propped’ (1992), achieved a price of $12.4 million at Sotheby’s Autumn auction in 2018; a record high for a living female artist. Saville lives and works in Oxford, England.

Noticeably the first print edition created by Jenny Saville, Separates was released in 2001 in a collaboration between the artist, Saatchi Gallery and Eyestorm. Constructed in layers, just like her paintings, a photo-based image was used with a black layer floated over the expressive flesh tones beneath. The edition of 100 is manually printed as a 10-colour lithograph on Somerset Velvet paper, signed and numbered on front.

To view the print edition in further detail and to find more information about the work by Jenny Saville, visit the artist’s page here.
 
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