Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shakespeare / We are such stuff

Cruz de sangre
Pamplona, 2010
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on
By William Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Anticipating his daughter's wedding to the Prince of Naples, Prospero has staged a short entertainment, with spirits taking the parts of Roman gods. But he abruptly cuts the fun short when he remembers some pressing business. He tries to calm the startled couple by explaining, somewhat off the point, that the "revels" (performance) they've witnessed were simply an illusion, bound sooner or later to melt into "thin air"—a phrase he coins.
Prospero's metaphor applies not just to the pageant he's created on his fictional island, but also to the pageant Shakespeare presents in his Globe Theater—the "great globe itself." Dramatic illusion in turn becomes a metaphor for the "real" world outside the Globe, which is equally fleeting. Towers, palaces, temples, the Globe theater, the Earth—all will crumble and dissolve, leaving not even a wisp of cloud (a "rack") behind. Prospero's "pageant" is the innermost Chinese box: a play within a play (The Tempest) within a play (the so-called "real" world).
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream, and people are the "stuff" dreams are "made on" (built of)—just as characters might be called the "stuff' plays are "built on." "Our little life" is like a brief dream in some divine mind, "rounded with a sleep"—that is, either "surrounded" by sleep or "rounded off" (completed) by sleep. Prospero seems to mean that when we die, we awake from the dream of life into true reality—or at least into a truer dream.
"The stuff of dreams" seems to derive from this passage, but it only superficially resembles Prospero's pronouncement. "The stuff of dreams" as we use it today refers to a scenario one can only fantasize—something devoutly to be wished. Prospero's "stuff" refers to the materials that go into creating an illusion, not to the object of a wish.
Take note that Prospero says "made on," not "made of," despite Humphrey Bogart's famous last line in the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon: "The stuff that dreams are made of." (Bogart suggested the line to director John Huston, but neither seems to have brushed up his Shakespeare.) Film buffs may think "made of" is the authentic phrase, but they're only dreaming.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jenny Saville / Metamorphosis / A Love Story

Jenny Saville
Propped, 1992

Jenny Saville


by Patricia Cronin

Nestled an hour north of Miami at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach is “Jenny Saville,” a survey exhibition of paintings and drawings by the celebrated Young British Artist. The first exhibition in the museum’s “Recognition of Art by Women” series (RAW), it is organized by Cheryl Brutvan, the museum’s new curator of contemporary art, and proves, if such a thing was in doubt, that women are now routinely in the artistic forefront (and also lead in the market -- Saville has 70 sales at auction, the top price being $2.4 million).
            The exhibition brings together 27 of Saville’s paintings and works on paper made from 1992 to the present. Saville is well known for her monumental nude female figures and portraits, painted with a furious application of confident expressive strokes. The scale of her figures indicates the psychological space the body takes up in our collective psyches -- we are obsessed with diets, nutrition, physical fitness, health, vanity, self-esteem. Saville’s somber, adult lens, directed towards the nude, takes off where Lucian Freud ends, and her interest in surgical and biological metamorphosis reveals an almost "End of Empire" view of the human form.
            The earliest painting in the show, Propped (1992), is an enlarged, nearly nude self-portrait of the artist perched atop a stool, her mammoth legs gripping for dear life, her ankles crossed, her feet in high heels. Saville’s crossed arms squeeze her breasts together, and her fingers gouge into her hefty knees, a pose purportedly inspired by Michelangelo’s works. Her head tilts back as if to fall out of the canvas, lips parted in psychological distress. Backwards mirror writing is scrawled across the surface of the painting as Leonardo was known to do. But Saville quotes Luce Irigaray, the Belgian feminist theorist, saying, in part, "if we speak as men have spoken for centuries, words will make us disappear." Clearly, Saville’s portrait aims to be radically different than the way any man has ever painted a woman.
            While Saville’s paintings have the feeling of sculpted paint, the bodies and faces she depicts often seem to have been physically assaulted -- beaten, scratched, cut, stretched, pushed and pulled, prodded, scarred, cut, bound, scraped, etc., a list of actions reminiscent of Richard Serra’s 1960s Verb List, except that Saville has applied it to the human beings she paints rather than to inanimate sculptural materials. Her past experiences witnessing face-lifts, compounded with her time spent sketching corpses in morgues, have given her a usually well-informed understanding of the insides of the body.
           Whether plastic surgery or sexual reassignment surgery, Saville’s overarching interest has been the body in transformation. The show also includes two sketches on paper of transsexuals -- or “in-betweens,” as she calls them -- both titled Transvestite Paint Study (ca. 2003-04). They are beautiful, skillfully and honestly rendered.
           Portraits abound in this show. For Reverse (2002), a fiery horizontal self-portrait showing the artist lying on the floor or on a table, Saville manually manipulated the flesh of her own face by stuffing cotton in her checks, a modification inspired by actor Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather. Hyphen (1989-99) is a double portrait that seems to render Saville and her sister as giant Siamese Twin babies. Several paintings and drawings are part of a series titled “Stare,” executed between 2004-2011, which depict a young boy whose full lips are curled into a subtle snarl. The undeniable lusciousness of Saville’s painterly bravura is mitigated by an element of detachment, as the subject’s eyes are painted behind a soft focused haze.  
           Abundantly represented is her latest series of charcoal and pastel works on paper, “Leonardo 2009-2011,” inspired by Leonardo’s Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (ca. 1499-1500). Here, Saville’s exquisite draftsmanship and frenetic mark-making reign. The squirming infants wiggle uncontrollably on the pregnant women’s bodies. But these physical transformations are biological, and sexual activity, not surgery, has transformed the female body to the enormous sizes reminiscent of some of her earlier figures. It’s fascinating to go back to the first gallery and view Fulcrum (1997-99), installed just a few steps away.
             The exhibition culminates with Atonement Studies: Central Panel (Rosetta) (2005-06), which depicts a blind woman Saville met while living and working in Palermo. Saville calls her subject “the most beautiful woman I ever photographed” -- and indeed her titled head, parted lips, milky eyes and striking bone structure are all illuminated by her peachy skin tone and blue-ish shadows, a feat of expressionist glory.
             The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with informative essays by Cheryl Brutvan and Nicholas Cullinan, curator at the Tate Modern, and is elegantly designed by Bethany Johns. The book includes many photographs of Saville’s studio, along with art historical and forensic source material.
            Saville’s work doesn’t titillate or entertain, but asks larger questions about what it means to inhabit a body in the late 20th and early 21st century. We are all born with this flesh and these bones, and no matter how we choose to alter them, they remain ours. Then they’re gone. Saville’s work takes us on a tour through some corporal possibilities -- and I, for one, enjoy the ride.
           “Jenny Saville,” Nov. 30, 2011-Mar. 4, 2012, Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL, 33401.

Jenny Saville
Atonement Studies, 2005-2006

Jenny Saville
Hypen, 1992

Jenny Saville
Reproduction Drawing IV (after the Leonard cartoon), 2010

Jenny Saville
Stare, 2004-2005

Jenny Saville
Time II, 2010

PATRICIA CRONIN is an artist who lives and works in New York. A solo exhibition of her work, "Memorial to a Marriage," goes on view at Conner Contemporary Art, Feb. 4-Mar. 10, 2012, in Washington, D.C.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jenny Saville at The Norton Museum

Jenny Saville

Saville at the Norton Museum

Jenny Saville gets first solo US museum show

The artist is due to unveil new works
at the Norton Museum in November

WEST PALM BEACH. UK artist Jenny Saville, who rarely produces fresh material, will unveil a selection of new works next month in her first solo show at a US museum. The exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art in Florida (30 November-4 March 2012) includes 15 large-scale paintings and 15 drawings dating from 1992 to 2011 by the Young British Artist, who is known for her graphic figurative representations of the human figure.
           “The exhibition will include new and existing works from the artist’s studio that have not been previously exhibited. Other works in the exhibition were only shown in the US in 1999 and 2003, but not in solo shows,” said a museum spokesman. A selection of works on paper include examples from the artist’s most recent series based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s preparatory drawing The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (The Leonardo Cartoon), around 1499-1500, which is housed at the National Gallery in London.
           The show is the first in the museum’s Recognition of Art by Women series. The spokesman said: “Cheryl Brutvan, the museum’s curator of contemporary art, thought Jenny Saville would be perfect as the series’ inaugural artist. She contacted Saville about the idea, and says the artist ‘was quite enthusiastic about it’.” All the works in the exhibition come either from private collections, foundations (such as the Santa Monica-based Broad Art Foundation) or the artist herself. None are from public collections.



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jenny Saville Exhibited At The Saatchi Gallery

Jenny Saville
by Bryan Adams


Jenny Saville


Oil on canvas

336 x 290 cm

  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. 
Torso 2
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.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

30 MINUTES WITH Stellan Skarsgård / 'I'm a castrated bull'

Stellan Skarsgård


Stellan Skarsgård: 'I'm a castrated bull'

The actor on why he's really known as a calming influence on film sets

Ryan Gilbey
Thu 5 Apr 2012

Stellan Skarsgard: 'I never liked Ingmar Bergman'
 Stellan Skarsgard: 'I never liked Ingmar Bergman'. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Hi Stellan, where are you? I'm in Stockholm in my office. I just got here after seeing my eighth child on an ultrasound, so I'm in a good mood. It's beautiful: an energetic little skeleton.
Congratulations! Has it expressed a desire yet to go into acting?
[laughing] Oh God, no, not yet.
How do you feel about so many of your children (1) becoming actors?
Since they're all talented I'm fine with it. It would've been terrible if they'd had a love for this profession and couldn't act. They've grown up knowing it's hard work but they've also seen how much I enjoy it.
A character on The Fast Show called Competitive Dad got his kicks thrashing his children at games. Sound familiar?
I've already lost to mine! I should have pressed them down much earlier in life. Now they're too talented, good-looking and smart.

Stellan Skarsgård
In David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you play the sinister Martin. I like how civilised you make him.
He's nice, isn't he?
Was that the key to playing him?
Even the most despicable person is still a human being. Martin is a psychopath but he has also been destroyed by growing up with a serial-killer father. Psychopaths are so good at imitating feelings. They can fool their own psychiatrists.
How do you rate David Fincher?
Together with Lars Von Trier (2), he is the most skilled director I've worked with (3). Shooting 40 takes suits me because then I can fuck up 39 times.
It's a lovely torture chamber you've got in the film. Did you take any of that equipment home?
I don't do much torturing at home, so I didn't have much use for it.
You could've given it to Lars.
That might come in handy for our next film.
It's called The Nymphomaniac (4), and yet you don't get to have sex in it.
That was a disappointment. Lars said: "My next film will be a porno and I want you to play the male lead. You will not get to fuck but you will show your dick in the end and it will be very floppy."
What's your relationship with Lars?
We're good friends. We can insult each other in a very pleasant way. We let our Tourette's free.
Did he really ask you to play the rape scene in Dogville in a rom-com style?
On the fifth take, he said: "Can you play it as a romantic comedy?" I was thinking of Hugh Grant, so I tried to make Hugh Grant into a rapist.
Stellan Skarsgård

How does Lars compare with Ingmar Bergman(5)
Bergman was hyper-intelligent but I never liked him as a person. He was not a good man. All directors are control freaks but he was extreme. He did things to people that were not kosher. He didn't destroy people to make them better actors: he destroyed them to utilise his power.
There's a site called Bait An Oscar that dreams up sure-fire award-winners. They've cast you as Bergman in a biopic called Magic Lantern.
That doesn't sound very radical. Sounds a bit dusty.
There's even a fake review: "Skarsgård gives a tremendous transformation as Ingmar Bergman. I didn't see him on screen, I saw Ingmar."
[laughs] That's very funny. I would have to wear a fake wart, because Bergman had a wart on his face for many years.
You're in the superhero extravaganza Avengers Assemble. Were you jealous of your co-stars' costumes?
Not at all. When they have all those fake muscles built in, they need these air-conditioning pumps going into the costumes so they don't die in the heat. In Albuquerque, they built the tops of skyscrapers in the desert and you stand there and pretend you're in New York.
What do you need to be a good actor?
An interest in human beings. Curiosity, playfulness, a certain patience.
You have a reputation as the nicest guy in movies.
My father would tell me: "Remember, no one's worth more than you, and no one's worth less than you." I treat everyone as equals. I can't work if I'm not having fun, and I can't have fun if not everyone is happy.
Are you a calming influence on set?
I have the feeling that Lars uses me like they use those castrated bulls in Pamplona: they send in a couple of them to calm down the others. That's me: a castrated bull.


1. Eldest child Alexander (True Blood) can now be seen in Battleship. Then there's Gustaf, Sam, Bill and non-actors Eija, Valter and Ossian.
2. Von Trier directed Skarsgård in Breaking the Waves, The Kingdom II, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Melancholia, and said of him: "I shall probably always have him in mind, if there's a suitable part for him."
3. Including Steven Spielberg, Paul Schrader, Gus Van Sant and Ron Howard.
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars in this story of "a woman's erotic journey from birth to the age of 50." Not to be confused with Rochelle, Rochelle, a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.
5. Bergman directed Skarsgård on television in L'école des Femmes and on stage in A Dream Play.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Jenny Saville / Four Pictures

Jenny Saville
Four Pictures
by Katherine Chen

Jenny Saville
Reverse, 2002

Matrix by Jenny Saville

Hem by Jenny Saville

Torso by Jenny Saville

         Jenny Saville is a very interesting artist because of the content of her work. Her paintings are usually based on the female body; she has been inspired by surgical photographs of liposuction, trauma victims and transvestites.
          Although the figures in her paintings aren’t meant to look beautiful, I feel like they are painted beautifully. Saville has a very painterly touch that makes her work look so real and alive; her strokes create so much movement in her work. She sends a message through her figures; her figures have a bold presence and basically say “what you see is what you get.”