“Branded" Jenny Saville 1992
Oil and mixed media.
Does this confront you? Does this make you uncomfortable?
If not, do you think it’s just a little bit gross?
If you said yes to any of those questions then you’ve just participated in a Jenny Saville painting the way that she intended.
That is, you’ve just viewed a woman’s body unstructured by the perspective of an idealist artist, you’ve just seen the volumes of flesh that we try to hide under layers of clothing, under photo shop, under diet commercials, in the back pages of a clothing catalogue splashed with the disclaimers ‘PLUS SIZED’ . This woman is bold, she shoves her flesh in to your retinas, TAKE IT. However she is indifferent to your reaction. This is her body, she sees it in the mirror every day and your opinion of it is of little concern to her. She has been branded with the marks of support, decorative, delicate, petite. These may be things that we think we leave to be determined in the public domain, when we’re judging women for what they wear, their weight, the amount of space they take up around you. However they stay on her skin, etched into her physicality. She makes you uncomfortable with the fact that you have participated in her detachment from her body. She makes you squirm when you realise that you see her as her body, as her flaws. She doesn’t try to adjust your positioning, she makes you ashamed of it.