Jenny Saville

Gagosian Gallery

Jenny Saville paints women’s bodies— bodies distorted to the point of being grotesque—but she also just paints, with an energy that enlivens her otherwise bloated, inert, sometimes carcasslike subjects. Much of the female body in Hem, 1998–99, for example, is composed of abstract passages of pure paint, which at once flatten the corpulent flesh and render it luminous. This raw painterliness subverts Saville’s illustrational tendencies, but it also gives her image an aggressive edge: In the act of dissolving the figure into “pure art,” the paint seems to sear the body, suggesting that it is inwardly wounded. Hence the gestural dimension of Saville’s painting supplements the image even as it negates it—an ambiguity on a par with the inherent contradictoriness of her handling, which ranges from considered to spontaneous. Her vivid whites, in paintings like Matrix, 1999, Brace, 1998–99, and

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