FEATURE JENNY SAVILLE
her partner Paul McPhail, began to experiment with materials that were lying around the studio — a painting platform and sheets of perspex. By placing the perspex across the top of the platform and lying naked on top of the structure, Saville found that her body, photographed from underneath, appeared to have the same distorted, grotesque look as the flesh she had seen sucked and tucked in Dr Wientraub’s surgery.
About this time, British Vogue contacted her wanting to commission a photographer to take her portrait. The man for the job was the young British-bom fashion photographer Glen Luchford, now based in New York. As one of the biggest fashion photographers in the States, Luchford spends most of his time snapping the likes of Naomi, Linda and Claudia or shooting the slick Kate Moss-Calvin Klein ads. The fact he was so keen to photograph Saville came as a surprise to her but began to make sense when they met. ‘We met up in New York and drove to Connecticut to take the photo for Vogue,’ she remembers. ‘It ended up that we didn’t take the photograph because we were too busy talking about everything else. We hit it off straight away. We were both talking about the different ways that we saw women. Our ideas clashed in so many ways but we instantly felt we could make something really interesting out ot it.’
Luchford began to work with Saville. helping her to come up with different ways of photographing her body from underneath the perspex sheet. Almost immediately, they knew .that they had struck upon something very powerful, far too exciting to ignore. Saville put her glass painting idea on hold and decided with Luchford that they would produce a series of photographs together. The results, until now unseen outside Saville’s studio. are destined to cause more than a stir when exhibited later this year. Spending up to seven hours a day on top of the platform, manipulating her body into the perspex to create what she calls a ‘smearing’ effect, was a painful process. often causing Saville to bruise.
Together. they are currently in the process of choosing the best images, which will be blown up to over 8ft. On the white brick wall of Saville’s new 50005qu studio in North London, the first image to be chosen has been pasted, using masking tape. The effect of the image is immediate and breathtaking. As with her previous work, it provokes a sense of wanting to look away and at the same time, a disbelief that keeps you looking. Her face. in life girlish and rounded, appears misshapen and disﬁgured, horribly reminiscent of the swollen, bruised faces of battered women. Her body is pushed and pulled as it collides against the perspex, her ﬂesh violently manipulated into the strange, contorted shapes of a plastic surgery operation. ‘Plastic surgery is a very violent thing to watch.’ Saville explains. ‘Dun'ng liposuction the surgeon actually sweats because of the force neccessary to push the instruments into the tissue. When they work on the face, the flesh is pulled so far out you can hardly believe it, and yet it doesn’t puncture.’
In the tranquillity of her stuido, surrounded by these tortured images, it is hard to imagine it is the same Jenny Saville who sits next to me, relaxed in her paint-splattered jeans and T-shirt. As yet, no exhibition venue or date has been confirmed, but the gallery-to-be will be a fortunate one. These are images that pack a .punch. Stand back and wait for the impact. D
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bJL-‘NNY SAVILLE AND GLEN LUCHFORD
8 The List 7-20 Apr 1995