The Sad State of Figure Art: Jenny Saville

Today,  I picked up a copy of Jenny Saville‘s figure work from Amazon.  Utter crap.  It’s such a shame that someone who has some very nicely refined skill at figure drawing blows it on deformity pseudo-paintings.  One of the worst forms of fine art painting in the world is the “shock-art” movement.  I did not get a chance to read through much of the text but I did get some good skimming in.  Apparently, there are some sort of homage ideas in these works reminiscent of rare works by other famous artists such as Renoir and less rare work like those of Francis Bacon.  Saville’s work, however, is a far cry from either, but in our contemporary setting of inane art criticism and baseless comparisons, the common person might be easily misinformed.  There is a place for shock art: a single room, in a single gallery, somewhere in the world which is labeled “shock art”.  One can go to it if one wishes, but they will not see anything except reason after reason that shock art is more personal therapy than anything otherwise functional for the public – or any other audience except the artist him or herself.  Really, no one cares but you Jenny.

I picked this book up because I was interested in contemporary figure painters since I like to think of myself as one as well.  I’d like to find some peerage out there.  Rarely do I read amazon reviews, because again, we have the common schmo emoting all over a webpage but sometimes a little gem of awareness peeks through.  In the reviews for Saville’s book, one nice reviewer had mentioned that her new work was no where near as abrasive and interesting (my words, I don’t recall the actual words but go to the link above if you wish) as her preliminary body of work.  And therein lies the problem of shock art: the emotion fades as one triumphs over the emotion that created it and moves on, never to look back one moment to the painting made.  Don’t artists have sketch books anymore?

Of course, we cannot expect everyone to be a master artisan.  My reviews, rants, and criticisms tend to make me sound like I have very high standards and that everyone should be a little learning Leonardo – this is not the case at all.  However, there should still be some sort of standard education in the foundations of art and what art means.  We do have definitions of art that work very well and have worked for centuries.  Our contemporary world likes to think that the rules are too constrictive, that they can disregard them – sure you can, it’s how we evolve – but we need to know what the rules are first before we break them.  Instead, I hear hundreds of horror stories from art students about their professors letting them ‘paint what they want’ leading to an army of inconsistent, unprofessional, meaningless producers of low-grade consumer aesthetic commodities.  This is how the bills are paid now-a-days.  Produce so much that something must sell, forget the quality.  And, when something does sell, now we find confidence in creating more of what sold, further de-fining the craft of fine art into a conveyor line of totally pointless – but “original” crap.  On that note, I’ll post about Audrey Kawasaki very soon; another fine example of mass-production of totally emotive, pointless crap designed to placate a very ignorant and simply gratified public.  She wins!

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One Response to “The Sad State of Figure Art: Jenny Saville”

  1. madaardvark Says:

    “I hear hundreds of horror stories from art students about their professors letting them ‘paint what they want’ leading to an army of inconsistent, unprofessional, meaningless producers of low-grade consumer aesthetic commodities.”

    Yes, this was the reason I left visual art. I was getting nowhere with fine art because of this problem. Illustration classes were teaching technique in very specific areas, but the more traditional studio art classes were artistic free-for-all skirmishes, with little to no direction.

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