Jenny Saville’s fascination with human flesh started as an art student when she was awarded a scholarship to attend Cincinnati University. Once there she became an habitué of the shopping malls of Ohio because that was “where you saw lots of big women. Big white flesh in shorts and T-shirts”. Big white — or pink — flesh has been her obsession ever since, to the point where she would even attend cosmetic surgery and liposuction procedures and photograph the operations. Artists from Rubens to Lucian Freud have shared her fascination but not her almost monomaniacal interest.
Despite the fact that she came to notice with the celebrated Sensation exhibition of Young British Artists at the Royal Academy in 1997 the new exhibition of her work at Modern Art Oxford is her first solo show in Britain. Unlike her peers Saville has always been a painter and draughtsman and her interest in the tradition is evident in her recent charcoal drawings based on Leonardo. At heart, however, paint is a medium that perfectly suits her often huge bodyscapes where rolls of fat-imbued flaccid skin bulge overwhelmingly at the viewer, sometimes from several viewpoints at once. Even when she depicts faces, her concentration is on their corporeality — the fact that they are meat over bone — rather than their personality and she still dips her brushes into what she calls “liquid pots of flesh”.
In her first solo exhibition in a UK public gallery, Jenny Saville will show work from throughout her career at Modern Art Oxford from June 23 to September 16.
For more information visit http://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/