Jenny Saville Oxyrhynchus

Several new works are inspired by the ancient Egyptian rubbish dump at Oxyrhynchus, one of the most important archeological sites ever discovered. Heaps of discarded documents and literature, incredibly preserved in the area's dry climate, are now invaluable; fragments of ancient Greek texts such as Euclid's Elements and the poems of Sappho are among the excavated papyri. Saville alludes to this history through a deep layering of paired subjects: faces, torsos, and limbs overlap with shadows and reflections, palimpsests of living bodies and ancestral apparitions. Silhouettes drawn in charcoal through the surfaces of oil paint underscore the motion of the central embracing figures, while evoking the timeless human process of sketching. These intermediate "studies" echo the shifting status of the unearthed papers—once discarded, now treasured. Time is further compressed by Saville's adaptation of various historical approaches to portraiture, from De Kooning's fluid abstractions of the female figure; to the almost combined couples of Picasso's late paintings and Japanese Shunga prints; to Titian's placement of subjects within dramatic perspectival landscapes, exemplified by Nymph and Shepherd (c. 1570-75). Saville's own figures merge ethereally with settings that have been loosely appropriated from photographs and evoke the backdrops of Renaissance paintings.

Jenny Saville was born in Cambridge, England in 1970. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art. She has had several solo museum exhibitions, from the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2005), to "Eroi," at the Galleriad'Arte Moderna, Torino, Italy (2011).

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22cm x 25cm




Rizzoli International


01 April 2015


John Elderfield