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Boo Saville - The World, The Flesh and The Devil at TJ Boulting, London

September 4, 2012 by Kay

05 Sep 12 - 04 Oct 12

TJ Boulting is delighted to present the third solo show with the gallery of British artist Boo Saville. This new series of drawings and paintings, whilst using trademark biro pens and oil paint, is a departure to previous representational work, and consists of large format abstract colour fields. The first works were begun over a year and a half ago and since then have been repeatedly returned to, informing the consecutive works in a back and forth cycle of formal explorations. Each is also infused less visibly with the personal experience of the artist, in an ongoing proximity to the works over time.

The drawings are the essence of the whole series, the starting point where ideas feed the subsequent paintings, and are then drawn back and forth between the two mediums. Bold, imposing colour fields are created from layers and layers of different colour biros – the more usual red, blue and green, as well as a new palette of colours: orange, pink, yellow and purple. Becoming predominantly dark and various hues of black as a result of so many layers, she has pushed the medium to its extremes with regards to colour and form. The result is a vibrating solid mass that eludes subject matter whilst retaining an ominous presence.

Saville’s previous subject matter was similarly dark, and explored her preoccupation with death, deceased bodies, human relics and existence, on a much more literal level. This new work harnesses the artist’s thoughts whilst being less didactic in approach. Instead of tangible subjects, it was the areas beyond or behind the recognizable form that she wanted the viewer to become absorbed in subconsciously, as a prelude to deeper interaction with the work. “That sense of pushing a material, spending time with something to see what would happen. Could I communicate through the labour of the drawings? Could I defeat alienation and my preoccupation with dying?” The works engage on a visceral and emotional level over what is first seen by the eye, it is about the whole experience. It is also about removing the presence of the artist and replacing it with the viewer. “By taking images out I want the viewer to use another part of their brain in order to read them. They challenge you to contemplate them rather than read them.”

The Viol, The Violet and The Vine | 2012 | Oil on canvas | 139 x 165 cm

The artist describes the drawings as the ‘batteries’; they are the source that feeds the paintings. “Holding within them time and thought, their production took me to a state of focus and clarity, frustration and elation.” The paintings are similarly made from layers and layers of thin oil glazes, the colours mixed to echo the biro drawings, sanded smooth after each application to produce a highly finished surface, which strives to remove the touch of the brush and defies the boundaries between paint, surface and apparent visual expression. “I have rejected images and photography in an effort to see what paint could do on its own terms, in its own world.”

The idea of the machine-made finish, removing the mark of the artist as much as possible, and the intense long process of production, mean the work is like a black hole of artistic input - they hold everything but seemingly show nothing. In the drawings, line disappears; colour and vibration take over, as if they are acting as paintings. At the same time, they are optical but without expression. They reflect the digital age in colour and form as would a screen made of millions of pixels, but in reality are entirely manual and created through hours of intense process. There is nothing instant in these works, they possess and silently exude thought and time.

The title of the show references the 1959 film of the same name, a science fiction where there are only three people left in the world. There is a visual reference also to the chapel designed by Mark Rothko in Houston, Texas, where his large black panels surround, somber but harmonious. As he stated, “I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom.” For Saville, the triumvirate is similarly present here in her world, flesh and devil.