Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Jenny Saville

In collaboration with fashion photographer Glen Luchford, Jenny Saville produced the photographic series Closed Contact. These striking and graphic self-portraits (Saville was the model and had directive control) arise from her continued interest in confronting perceptions of feminine beauty - often through large-scale painted nudes, placing emphasis on flesh and voluptuousness.

Her ideas for this series arose from her observations of cosmetic surgery (she witnessed several operations), and her contemplation of the culture which surrounds it. I understand that she was struck by the idea of being able to create beauty through a surgeon's knife – to manipulate, alter, cut, and push about the body at will, and also the apparent normality of it all to the clients and doctors. Her standpoint isn't negative or critical of cosmetic surgery however, she is simply fascinated by its application. (You can see Saville's observations and opinions on the matter, in this documentary about her work – go from 7:07).

Her response was then to produce the Closed Contact series, in which she moulded and manipulated her body on a large sheet of perspex with Luchford taking photographs from below.

Closed Contact #14 (above), and #8

Interesting to note here that Saville had a mirror positioned beneath her to assist her with posing, (as seen in this video clip - from 0:48) presumably so that she could arrange her face and body to the desired, and quite extreme, level of manipulation. Just so as I have used a two-way mirror to find and capture that exact moment when my face is transfigured to a dramatically altered expression. 

What remains unclear, is Saville's motive for producing this work insofar as how she wants it to be read. Personally I find the images quite shocking and even a bit repulsive, and yet I also feel compelled to examine them – drawn to identify the features amongst the gruesomeness. Katherine Dunn makes her analysis in the exhibiton catalogue: 
"The images offer, not a story, but an experience that begins in visceral uneasiness and gradually shifts to a haunted serenity. The discomfort is complicated. It is triggered partly by our sense of the instantaneous monstrosity of a normal human transformed by the spreading of the shape beyond what we understood as normal…"
Words taken from the Closed Contact page on the Gagosian Gallery website.

I don't see my own images causing great discomfort, and certainly not a sense of monstrosity, but I am interested in there being a suggestion of transfiguration to 'beyond normal'. I suppose the major difference is that I want there to be a stronger element of my personality coming through the work. I hope that I can bring to the fore the 'self mockery versus narcissism' complex that I investigated in my research project, and that this will be suggested through the title of the work and the accompanying statement. I'm also hoping that viewers will interact with the mirror/video installation, and through that interaction, consider how they publicly-present a version of themselves, and then how they might alter it for their reception within the exhibition space. Perhaps they'll even take part in some vanity-busting self-mockery.

No comments:

Post a Comment