For those of you who missed Jenny Saville: Continuum at the Gagosian Gallery, New York, which closed October 22nd, 2011, fear not because you’ll have a subtle interior peek here. Jenny Saville is one of the best figurative painters working today and as a woman, one of the few with a rigorous exhibition history already under her belt at the age of 41. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, she was part of  Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection which traveled between three different countries and museums from 1997-1999. A painter who isn’t afraid to reference the historical resonance that paint carries, Saville makes robust female figures whose bodies are lush with flesh and medium it’s formed from. The artist plays with the elasticity of both materials and the paint mimics and accentuates the way that flesh is stretched as well as conformed to the body where it is confined. This is the artists first solo exhibition with the gallery since 2003 and this time around exhibits the influence that living and working in Rome, Italy has  had on her work.
Jenny Saville: Continuum, Installation view, Opening night
Opening night, the gallery was teeming with guests ranging from casual college students to black tie collectors and other well-known artists such as Chuck Close. Dense with black clad visitors, the paintings appeared to leap off of the wall, colors vibrantly dancing even under fluorescent lighting. As in previous works, the figures are Rubenesque and sometimes appear to be bloodied or bruised, scowling or dumbfounded, and static yet hover with a vibrating invisible energy that lives in between the canvas and paint itself along with the figures portrayed. For this body of work, the artist has utilized a figure that seems to be her own, and/or similar and a pose with ties to the well-known images of Mary, an infant Jesus, and St. John the Baptist in a triangular composition that dominates many Renaissance themed works in Italy and beyond.
In Continuum, the artist chooses to repeat the same subject several times in the main gallery. There are subtle differences and levels of coverage applied to the canvas, but the female subject, her large, blue eyes a bit void and her chestnut colored bangs a harsh division between face and forehead, is repeated in a sequence of four paintings that in numbers and size alone, carry a particular level of importance due to the repetition. None of the figures appear to suggest narrative within the realm of proposed content. Saville communicates with the past yet brings painting to the foreground of discussion. The work is political, specific, timeless yet referential and academic without being didactic.
Jenny Saville: Continuum, Installation view, Opening night
Saville’s subjects may not be groundbreaking in anyway, but with Continuum, she reminds us where most art and art appreciation started, through the use of paint on a 2-dimensional ground.  Instead of utilizing contemporary semiotics, the artist instead relies on the paint itself to delve into and through the surface of the flesh. In doing so, the major works in the exhibit are able to channel a relevance that is all about the now while still paying an active homage to its predecessors.
Jenny Saville: Continuum was on view at the Gagosian Gallery, New York from September 15th-October 22nd, 2011.