Jenny Saville: With the transvestite I was searching for a body that was between genders. I had explored that idea a little in Matrix. The idea of floating gender that is not fixed. The transvestite I worked with has a natural penis and false silicone breasts. Thirty or forty years ago this body couldn’t have existed and I was looking for a kind of contemporary architecture of the body. I wanted to paint a visual passage through gender – a sort of gender landscape. To scale from the penis, across a stomach to the breasts, and finally the head. I tried to make the lips and eyes be very seductive and use directional mark-making to move your eye around the flesh.
Jenny Saville: I have to really work at the tension between getting the paint to have the sensory quality that I want and be constructive in terms of building the form of a stomach, for example, or creating the inner crevice of a thigh. The more I do it, the more the space between abstraction and figuration becomes interesting. I want a painting realism. I try to consider the pace of a painting, of active and quiet areas. Listening to music helps a lot, especially music where there’s a hard sound and then soft breathable passages. In my earlier work my marks were less varied. I think of each mark or area as having the possibility of carrying a sensation. (Extract from ‘Interview with Jenny Saville by Simon Schama)
Simon Schama: So you really do manipulate what’s in front of you through the mark-making. It’s very striking – I’m looking at a photograph of your transvestite painting Passage and that passage that moves from the penis and balls to the belly is really about the anatomy of paint as it constructs the body.
Jenny Saville Torso 2
Oil on canvas
360 x 294 cm
Jenny Saville’s monumental paintings wallow in the glory of expansiveness. Jenny Saville is a real painter’s painter. She constructs painting with the weighty heft of sculpture. Her exaggerated nudes point up, with an agonizing frankness, the disparity between the way women are perceived and the way that they feel about their bodies. One of the most striking aspects of Jenny Saville’s work is the sheer physicality of it. Jenny Saville paints skin with all the subtlety of a Swedish massage; violent, painful, bruising, bone crunching.