Saville’s painting “Branded” was completed in 1992. It is a rather large oil painting on canvas with dimensions stretching 7’x6’. It is the first prominent picture in Saville’s book and I find myself particularly drawn to this painting because it vividly describes the artist’s subject matter and focus. The painting is of an over weight woman standing with one hand at her side and the other grasping her stomach fat while she looks down at the viewer, which is almost intimidating. Saville’s paint application in “Branded” as well as her many other paintings is extraordinary. She adds oil paint as if she sculpts her figures through brushstroke. She stated that she can mix up to 300 colors for a painting and prefers using pots of paint to mix in rather than a palette. She has been compared to artists like Lucien Freud. “Branded” forces the viewer to think about the ideas of femininity and what’s considered beautiful. Saville does this by creating such a large image and the puts words on the models body. The words read, “support”, “decorative”, “delicate”, and “petite”.
Saville also brings up the idea of the modern day cannon in her work. She comments on the cosmetic industry and worked closely with a plastic surgeon where she took her own photographs to create countless images which she then turned into paintings. In The painting “Plan” created in 1993, she forces the viewer to think about the body becoming a topographical map ready to be altered in the planes that are too wide. This painting is 9’x7’ and also looks down at the viewer, returning the gaze.
“Knead”, 1994, is a slightly smaller painting reaching 5’x 6’. It is a disturbing image of a woman in what appears to be in surgery. The woman has her eye taped and a tube down her throat. There is discoloration to the image that makes the woman appear to have bruising and scars from what looks to be a face-lift. Saville’s images are striking and really make strong statements about plastic surgery. I find it really interesting that something so disturbing and disgusting can also be so beautiful.
As Saville’s work progressed she started to create paintings about the transgendered. In 1999 she produced “Matrix” which is 7’x10’ and oil on canvas. In this painting she has a man that went through surgery to become a woman. The painting focuses on the constructed vagina and bosom while the man’s face looks past the viewer. The painting is really delicate, and for me, thought provoking on what it means to identify with a certain sex. In an interview she states that,
“When I was painting the genital area, I was trying to think about ways to use intense color and make marks that heightened a feeling of sex. Then when I painted the thigh, I had this area at the topside of the thigh and had four or five tones mixed up that I knew I wanted to run into each other. I got them all really oily. It was a one shot, to keep the color clean but slide them together and create the thrusting dynamic of this leg lifting up. The white dripped right across the thigh towards the genitals. It was this incredible, orgasmic”.
In 2004, Saville completed “Entry” ranging around 7’x6’. This painting is a portrait of an older woman who has been deformed by something. She looks down past the viewer with a sad longing look in her eyes. The colors used are cold and sickening evoking a depressing feel. I chose this painting because it speaks to Saville’s more recent work discussing deformities and once again confronting the viewer of what is considered to be acceptable by society.
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