January 2009, Noah Becker interviews Boo Saville and Hannah Watson
Boo Saville, Indefinate Series, 2009, oil on canvas, courtesy Trolley Gallery, London
opens Wednesday 28th January
29th January - March 14th
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By Noah Becker, January, 2009
Hannah Watson sent Whitehot a press release about her curatorial role at Trolley gallery in London. Boo Saville was first interviewed by Oliver Guy Watkins in an early edition of Whitehot Magazine. My interest in Boo’s enigmatic paintings has been constant ever since. Upon learning of Boo’s upcoming exhibition, I jumped at the chance to do a follow up with Ms. Saville. Hannah Watson is a fantastic personality with an irresistible manner even via email. The Questions ranged from talk about Boo’s infamous sister Jenny Saville, to discussions about Trolley Books, art history and what promises to be an impressive exhibition not to be missed.
Noah Becker: Who are your painterly influences from art history?
Bacon for his economy of line and mark, I have always been fascinated with creating a stain or mark, something which can be paired down completely until there is just enough to make sense of the image. I have always loved the Holbein painting 'The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb', it is so simple and captures such an important moment between death and resurrection. I have an image of 'The Death of Marat' by Jacques-Louis David in my studio next to an image of Andy Warhols grave. William Blake, Goya and Durer. I have always been fascinated by cave drawings.
Noah Becker: What living artists do you admire?
I read about Vija Celmins at art college and wrote my dissertation partly on her. I think it totally changed the way i worked as an artist or certainly helped solidify certain things i had been playing around with at the time. She makes drawings of nature, a cobweb or water. But draws them so beautifully that their physical presence becomes awesome. It was a shock to find an artist who's work had such power and drama but at the same time were so quiet and modest. I liked that you could take nature on like this, rather than just making illustrations of your world. I think that i wanted to make my drawings like objects from then on. Other artists i like, Maggie Hambling, Rachel Howard, Marlene Dumas, Damein Hirst.
Noah Becker: Do you have plans to show your work in North America?
I have just been involved with a group show in New York but there are no future plans at the moment to show in North America. I would love the opportunity to show my work anywhere.
Noah Becker: Tell us something about how Hannah Watson works with Boo Saville. You have a curatorial involvement together but then Boo Saville is also a brilliant painter with a new show opening at Trolley Gallery. Hannah Watson is a writer but beyond these simple facts our readers would love to know more about your endeavors. What are your expectations for Trolley Gallery? I'm under the impression that you are both curating the space?Hannah Watson:
I heard about Boo's work through a friend of mine, as I was looking for new and interesting artists for Trolley Gallery. I also had in mind to curate a group show here but was still thinking over a few themes and artists and of how things could come together. When I met Boo I was intrigued by the style and the subject she was exploring, and the strength of her work. It helped lead me actually to the theme of the group show I curated a few months later 'Don't Stop Me Now - the body beyond death' with Boo's image of a biro skull on the invitation and in the window of the gallery. That was the first show we worked on together, she had just had a solo show at Martin Summers, but after speaking to her we decided that a solo show with Trolley would be rather different - Martin is a west-end dealer and has been established for many years, whilst Trolley is a young east-end gallery, we work with young and emerging artists, offering a platform for them to present usually their first solo show, with the freedom to explore what they like, and as more of an opportunity to make their first show rather than a binding representation. I find it a really exciting level to work with, the artists are starting to get discovered so its great to work with them and bring people to the gallery, create a good energy, and hopefully it's a unique moment of development for the artist. Over recent months Boo has been working for this new show at Trolley, and I hope she feels she has got freedom to really make it her own. I always look forward to seeing what she has produced, and I think it's important to have dialogue between the gallery and the artist, to explore ideas and encourage them in what they want to do, so that the show evolves in the space almost subconsciously.
I think we just work really well together, that can be a rare thing for an artist. I am really looking forward to putting the show together.
Noah Becker: The body beyond death is a very interesting concept in painting. The history of figurative art either centers around religious depictions of the afterlife or idealizations or sexuality, violence ect. The categories are vast but the concept of post death figures has a different resonance. The bodies preserved in ice are scientific wonders, to treate them as the subject of paintings brings forth a different set of circumstances. Boo has treated the subject in a masterful way in this sense. Her treatment is very personal, so one could know almost any subject as her style. The paintings of Chimps are also important in terms of the history of British painting from the late 1930's to the present. I'm speaking of Stanley Spencer, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland in particular. There is a quiet in Boo's work that liberates it from stylistic traps or threads of historic redundancy. But let me now ask Hannah something...What are your publishing projects?, how is Trolley Books connected with the gallery?
I agree. In Boo's work the bodies and compositions are scientific documents, photographs in text books and archives of museums. She reproduces faithfully the many details, but at the same time transports them from the objective and infuses the compositions with a vigorous sense of drama, often more powerful and resonant of the human condition than a Mannerist crucifixion can be. Contorted bodies in twisted compositions, gnarled surfaces, detailed surfaces of skin, bone and hair - often it is hard to imagine these subjects have been dead for thousands of years. Trolley Books started in 2001, and moved into the current gallery space in 2004, which used to be inhabited by Stuart Shave's Modern Art. The books are mainly photojournalism and contemporary art books, and the gallery began organically alongside the publishing side, as we knew or were already working with artists around us. For example we published Paul Fryer's book of poetry 'Don't Be So', which has illustrations by Damien Hirst in 2002, by 2005 Paul was creating his own exciting works of art, his lightning machine for example, and Trolley staged his first solo show. The gallery programme is mostly separate to the publishing, concentrating on new and emerging artists, but both are run side by side under the same roof.
Boo Saville, God,
2009, biro on paper, courtesy of Trolley Gallery, London
I would agree and it is a very important interest in my work that the documents and references i collect are like objects to me and that i am faithful to them. I am looking to make my work by taking these pieces of evidence as a starting point. I am interested in the duality within a picture and how superstition this can be transcended. An image of Christ dying on the cross acts as both a soothing and frightening one. I believe life can often be determined when there is an absence of it. It is in this moment that we will all inevitably define ourselves, this is the sublime moment and I guess I am hunting the beauty in this. I am really enjoying painting at the moment because you can achieve that stain or mark using the references very quickly and the game is to know when to stop. Drawing for me is a systematic process which enables me to tell particular stories. Painting, for me is about violence and its confrontation with beauty. Noah Becker: I'm impressed with Boo Saville's ability to transcend the influence of her sister Jenny Saville. Her work stands on it's own merit. How did you meet Boo for the first time?Hannah Watson:
I met her on suggestion of a friend of mine and found her through her myspace, then she came and met us at the gallery and things developed from there. Her studio is not far from us in east London. I wasn't aware she was related to Jenny until a little later when I was researching her past work and press online. Frankly I never really think of it, although I am aware that people like to make the connection initially, but most people are very much interested in Boo for her work in its own right, and of course meeting Boo herself.
Noah Becker: Thanks for speaking with us Hannah and Boo, good luck with the Boo Saville exhibition at Trolley Gallery in London UK..
Boo Saville, Buttersunk with Spaces, 2008, biro on paper, courtesy of Trolley Gallery, London
Boo Saville, Paris in Summer, 2008, enamel on gesso board, courtesy of Trolley Gallery, London