Oxyrhynchus / Jenny Saville / Gagosian Gallery / Flesh, identities and stories

Jenny Saville marks the difference between a naked portrait which only is technically perfect and other which disturb you because becomes something present in front of you, talking to you, now and here, claiming for your attention. And is technically perfect.
The exhibition at Gagosian is darker than other of her previous works. Then closer to oranges, now to ochre and charcoal. Some of them are now more drawing than painting.
Still is about flesh, flesh in the course of the life. And about sex and gender. She is always concerned about gender. The body is the support of our identity. A self-produced identity. Saville is a contemporary artist and at the same time brings to the front the patterns of the masters of the portrait: Leonardo Da Vinci, Diego Velázquez, Willem De Kooning, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud or Sarah Lucas.
These works are rich on gestures and movements. In this show the motto seems to be the capture of the time, gained showing different scenes overlapped. As a landscape captured at different times, as Antonio López did in the The Quince Tree Sun.
As the Oxyrhynchus Papyri -name of the exhibition-, which are a mix of the stories written in them and them as historical objects slowly modified in the course of time. The manuscript were discovered in an ancient rubbish dump. Here we can see an analogy between paper and body. Both are supporting a story. Both will end -mostly forgotten- in a dusty place. When she is using charcoal over canvas, she is working over this analogy. The canvas is another papyrus and the drawing is a new story. And the story is moving forward as the same time she is painting, as we can see thanks to the successive superimposed images.
The couples seemed to be relaxed after having sex, -a reference to a past- and are lost in their own thoughts -a reference to a future-. Their naked flesh -a reference to a present- are in touch with their partners but their minds are far each other, one absorbed, the other engrossed. These petit morts are not post-orgasmic states of unconsciousness, are states of self-consciousness. It is a thinking time. They are thinking about their identities. They are thinking about their stories.
Jenny Saville
13 June – 26 July 2014