Artspiration - what makes us tick. Jenny Saville.


Art – it comes in many different forms. There’s the stuff which my slightly more pretentious friends at drama schools would claim to be art…hmm, there’s spoken word, there’s architecture, installation work … the list is endless. The beauty of a concept like art is its boundless infinity. Art isn’t defined as such because a group of people sit around a table labelling, judging and finally deciding if something should be allowed precedence in the modern canon. I’m conscious of using the word ‘subjective’ (because if such a thing exists then so does, by implication, a concept of objectivity, an ultimate truth), however, art can be many different things at once and everybody has different tastes. My interests lie in what is (questioningly) referred to as fine art- that is, stuff which is drawn, painted, sculpted. ‘Fine art’ seems a supercilious term, if this kind of art is ‘fine’, then where does that leave other forms of art?

I was thrilled upon arriving to Thompson on the first day of my placement to see in the studio an enormous canvas featuring hundreds of different artworks (I believe they are some of the team’s favourites). The canvas serves as a collective inspiration point for everyone and artists range from renaissance work to photography, graphic design and sculpture. It is what makes everyone tick. I was delighted to find that Jenny Saville was featured twice on the wall.

Saville is stunningly talented. Her work features the naked human form. However it is far removed from classical nudes. Saville contorts and disrupts the human form, particularly that of women. I first came across it when I was studying for my A-levels and having a go at different techniques during life class. Would that I could paint with her sass! Saville deliciously portrays flesh and has also focused a lot of her work on cosmetic surgery and challenges concepts of beauty. At 18 I found this extremely refreshing and still do. The subjects of her work certainly don’t replicate the women of our TV screens. Audacious, vulgar and unapologetic, Saville’s work evokes a sense that it isn’t being contained within the confines of a frame. She seems to ignore the potentially damaging effects that an edge or a border can have on a piece of work. Instead, her fleshy masterpieces command attention and ooze attitude. Personally, I think she may be a bit of a marmite artist. This is the kind of stuff you love or loathe. Either way, from my experience, it always elicits some sort of response!

The two pieces featured on the inspiration canvas at Thompson are ‘Stare’ and ‘Hyphen’. A favourite of mine however is ‘Hybrid’ which unsurprisingly is composed of several mismatched bodies shoved unceremoniously together. The result is an unflattering torso. This kind of art challenges not even norms of beauty, but norms of painting and composition. Saville has messed around with construction and brush technique to achieve something organic and candid.

Much like the direction of thinking at Thompson, Saville works creatively and confidently. Well – why not? She’s great at what she does.

Her work is on show at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Go and have a look – I dare you.

  • Image 1: Jenny Saville, ‘Hyphen’ (1999).
    Image 2: Jenny Saville, ‘Stare’ (2006-2011).
    Image 3: Jenny Saville, with Oxyrnchus (2014), pictured at the Gagosian Gallery, London.
    Image 4: Jenny Saville, ‘Hybrid’ (1997).

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