Friday, October 21, 2016

Does Jenny Saville fix it for you?

Does Jenny Saville fix it for you?

For once, I'm not offering an opinion, because I can't decide. Is feminist activist and YBA Jenny Saville the real deal or not?

Jonathan Jones
Thursday 29 September 2011 17.20 BST

Jenny Saville – good painter or bad painter? You tell me, because I'm not sure.
I used to be fairly sure she was a mediocre pseudo-expressionist whose rise to fame was down to the support of Charles Saatchi and a loud appeal to feminist cultural theory. In reality, I felt her paintings were too easy and glib in their mottled flesh, and just not serious enough about the challenge of depicting the human body with blobs of pigment on canvas. Lucian Freud's granddaughter she was not.
Saville is still a feminist: for the next couple of days you can see a work by her at the Gagosian Gallery in King's Cross, alongside pieces by a wide range of artists that go on sale in a charity auction this week on behalf of Women for Women International; she also co-organised the event. WfWI supports women in conflict zones around the world, and a gallery of great and good artists including Tracey Emin and Chuck Close have joined Saville to offer works to its cause.
So she is an activist, and her politics are real. She is also, by this time, plainly a serious painter, in the sense that she still keeps doing what she does – she also has a solo exhibition in New York at the moment – and succeeds in making it bite, somehow, into the culture. A row over a work by her on the cover of a rock album in 2009 typified the way she makes painting a force on the contemporary scene, able to shock and trouble a world far beyond art galleries. In this, she may not be so unlike Freud after all.
On the other hand, do her paintings possess enough real joy in the art of painting to make them live, in the long term, as art? Is she a powerful painter of visceral subjects or a pastiche of such a painter?
For once, I am not offering an opinion. I'm asking you. Is Saville the real deal or not?

Self-portraits / A voyage around myself

Jenny Saville

A voyage around myself

A collection of self-portraits from Joshua Reynolds to Jenny Saville gives a fascinating insight into how we view ourselves. And it's not always flattering

Peter Conrad
Sunday 30 October 2005 01.28 GMT

Moralists are always complaining about our lack of self-knowledge, but how can we be expected to know ourselves when it's so difficult for us to see ourselves? We are trapped in our bodies, obliterated by our own flesh; each of us is a subject, though other people see only an object.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jenny Saville / Under the skin

Juncture by Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville

Under the skin

Jenny Saville's paintings are known for the mountains of flesh they reveal, but it is the neuroses bursting through that interest her, she tells Suzie Mackenzie

In August 2003, on her way back to London from a holiday in Sicily, the artist Jenny Saville stopped off in the island's capital, Palermo, for what she intended to be a single day's sightseeing, having never visited the city before. It must have been like entering not so much a new world, as her own world - the world she has carried around in her head since she was a child and which she has forged into those monumental flesh paintings, her unidealised naked bodies, which erupt and leak at us, and force us into new habits of perception. What is this thing, the body, her paintings ask, when it is stripped bare, denuded of personality and context, this thing that seems so much a part of us, and which we try so hard to look after and yet which betrays us, decays from within, and which, when it leaves us, takes us with it?

Trace, 1993
by Jenny Saville

alermo, she says, seemed to her just like a vast mutant body, a body that doesn't belong to anyone or to any one moment in time. "A mysterious hybrid of a city. Here you see can see a 1950s public housing building abutting a Norman church. An Arab mosque next to a Catholic church." And, just like the body, it bears the scars of all its violent and tumultuous history.

Jenny Saville / The female gaze

Atonement Studies
Central Panel_Rosetta, 2005
Jenny Saville
Jenny Saville

The female gaze

Alison Roberts
Sunday 20 April 2003 16.07 BST

Jenny Saville, an undoubted heavy-weight of the Britart movement, was one of Charles Saatchi's early protégés. Upon viewing one of her degree show paintings in a London gallery in 1992, he commissioned 15 new works for the Saatchi collection - effectively keeping her in paint and brushes for the next two years - and exhibited them in the Young British Artists III show of 1994. Career-wise, she's never looked back.

Jenny Saville / 'I used to be anti-beauty'

Still (2003)
Jenny Saville
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2012
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

Jenny Saville: 'I used to be anti-beauty'

Saville made her name with giant paintings of fleshy, flawed bodies. She talks about being bankrolled by Charles Saatchi, how having children is changing her art – and the joy of late-night vacuuming

Emine Saner
Monday 25 April 2016 09.00 BST

t’s funny to think of Jenny Saville in her studio at 1am, music blaring, with vacuum cleaner in hand as she approaches one of her canvases and starts sucking great lines through her work. That it should be a Henry vacuum, the shamelessly anthropomorphised device, makes it even better: as he approaches Saville’s giant works, ready to wreak destruction, his expression will be one of eternal cheerfulness.

“I’m getting more sophisticated with working out how many suction techniques I can find,” says Saville with a laugh, as we stand in front of Ebb and Flow. This great tangle of bodies is part of her new show at the Gagosian Gallery in London.

Still (2003)
Jenny Saville
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2012
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

Saville is known as a painter, but this exhibition is of her drawings. It is a “massive” freedom, she says, to work in charcoal and pastel rather than oil paint. “Just because of the transparency of drawing, you’ve got the possibility of multiple bodies. It’s an attempt to make multiple realities exist together rather than one sealed image.” It means she can change direction quickly. “In two hours, you can put a leg in here, go right through a body, go right through genitals, one gender changes to another.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door

Bob Dylan by Eugenio

Nobel panel gives up knockin’ 

on Dylan’s door

Days after being awarded the literature prize, Bob Dylan has yet to get in touch with the Swedish Academy, or indicate whether he will attend the celebrations

Staff and agencies
Monday 17 October 2016 16.32 BST

The Swedish Academy says it has given up trying to reach Bob Dylan, days after it awarded him the Nobel prize in literature.
“Right now we are doing nothing. I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough,” the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told state radio SR on Monday.

The future of the Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan

The future of the Nobel Prize 

With the awarding of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan many were pleased to see the Swedish Academy embrace a far broader view of 'literature' (and many others were, of course, disappointed, confused, and outraged); see my recent overview and links

Regardless of what position one took, it certainly looked like under Sara Danius' stewardship (which also saw last year's genre-stretching selection of Svetlana Alexievich) the Swedish Academy had moved towards a far more wide-ranging interpretation of what the prize could be awarded for. What next ? we wondered -- assuming that rather than returning to the more or less traditional novelists and poets who have dominated the Nobel there would be more 'bold' choices in the future. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suzanne Vega / One of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation

Suzanne Vega
One of the most brilliant songwriters 
of her generation

Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation, Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been labeled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world’s best-known halls. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as “a cool, dry sandpaper- brushed near-whisper” and as “plaintive but disarmingly powerful.”

We of Mee
Suzanne Vega

Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who “observed the world with a clinically poetic eye,” Suzanne’s songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. In short, Suzanne Vega’s work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now, as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 20 years ago.

Suzanne was born in Santa Monica, CA, but grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York City. She was influenced by her mother, a computer systems analyst and her stepfather, the Puerto Rican writer Egardo Vega Yunque. There was a heady mix of multicultural music playing at home: Motown, bossa nova, jazz and folk. At age 11 she picked up a guitar and as a teenager she started to write songs.

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne studied dance at the High School for the Performing Arts and later attended Barnard College where she majored in English Literature. It was in 1979 when Suzanne attended a concert by Lou Reed and began to find her true artistic voice and distinctive vision for contemporary folk. Receptionist by day, Suzanne was hanging out at the Greenwich Village Songwriter’s Exchange by night. Soon she was playing iconic venues like The Bottom Line and Folk City. The word was out and audiences were catching on.

At first, record companies saw little prospect of commercial success. Suzanne’s demo tape was rejected by every major record company—and twice by the very label that eventually signed her: A&M Records. Her self-titled debut album was finally released in 1985, co-produced by Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye, the former guitarist for Patti Smith. The skeptical executives at A & M were expecting to sell 30,000 LP’s. 1,000,000 records later, it was clear that Suzanne’s voice was resonating around the world. Marlene on the Wall was a surprise hit in the U.K and Rolling Stone eventually included the record in their “100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980’s.” 1987’s follow up, Solitude Standing, again co-produced by Addabbo and Kaye, elevated her to star status. The album hit #2 in the UK and #11 in the States, was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year and went platinum. “Luka” is a song that has entered the cultural vernacular; certainly the only hit song ever written from the perspective of an abused boy.

Suzanne Vega

The opening song on Solitude Standing was a strange little a cappella piece, “Tom’s Diner” about a non-descript restaurant near Columbia University uptown. Without Suzanne’s permission, it was remixed by U.K. electronic dance duo “DNA” and bootlegged as “Oh Susanne.” Suddenly her voice on this obscure tune was showing up in the most unlikely setting of all: the club. Suzanne permitted an official release of the remix of “Tom’s Diner” under its original title which reached #5 on the Billboard pop chart and went gold. In 1991 a compilation, Tom’s Album, brought together the remix and other unsolicited versions of the song. Meanwhile, Karlheinz Brandenburg, the German computer programmer was busy developing the technology that would come to be known as the MP3. He found that Vega’s voice was the perfect template with which to test the purity of the audio compression that he was aiming to perfect. Thus Suzanne earned the nickname “The Mother of the MP3.”

Suzanne co-produced the follow-up album with Anton Sanko, 1990’s Days Of Open Hand, which won a Grammy for Best Album Package. The album also featured a string arrangement by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Years earlier she had penned lyrics for his song cycle “Songs From Liquid Days.” Continuing to battle preconceptions, she teamed with producer Mitchell Froom for 1992’s 99.9F. The album’s sound instigated descriptions such as “industrial folk” and “technofolk.” Certified gold, 99.9F won a New York Music Award as Best Rock Album. Suzanne’s neo-folk style has ushered in a new female, acoustic, folk-pop singer-songwriter movement that would include the likes of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and Indigo Girls. In 1997, Suzanne joined Sarah McLachlan on her Lilith Fair tour which celebrated the female voice in rock and pop. She was one of the few artists invited back every year. Suzanne was also the host of the public radio series “American Mavericks,” thirteen hour-long programs featuring the histories and the music of the iconoclastic, contemporary classical composers who revolutionized the possibilities of new music. The show won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.In 1996, Vega returned with the similarly audacious Nine Objects Of Desire, also produced by Mitchell Froom, who by then was her husband. “Woman On The Tier (I’ll See You Through)” was released on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. Over the years, she has also been heard on the soundtracks to Pretty In Pink (“Left Of Center” with Joe Jackson) and The Truth About Cats & Dogs, and contributed to such diverse projects as the Disney compilation Stay Awake, Grateful Dead tribute Deadicated, Leonard Cohen tribute Tower Of Song, and Pavarotti & Friends. In 1999, The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings Of Suzanne Vega, a volume of poems, lyrics, essays and journalistic pieces was published by Spike/ Avon Books. In 2001, she returned to her acoustic roots for her first new album in five years, the critics favorite, Songs In Red And Gray.

In Liverpool
Suzanne Vega

In 2007, Suzanne released Beauty & Crime on Blue Note Records, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim and the tragedy of 9/11. But the record is not a sad one, per se, as her love for the city shines through as both its subject and its setting. In it, Suzanne mixes the past and present, the public with the private, and familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself. “Anniversary,” which concludes Beauty & Crime, is an understated evocation of that time in the fall of 2002, when New Yorkers first commemorated the Twin Towers tragedy and when Suzanne recalls her brother’s passing. It’s more inspiration than elegy, though: “Make time for all your possibilities,” Vega sings at the end in that beautiful, hushed voice. “They live on every street.” Produced by the Scotsman, Jimmy Hogarth and featuring songs such as “New York is a Woman” and “Ludlow Street,” Beauty & Crime is that rare album by an artist in her third decade; an album that is as original and startling as her first. Beauty & Crime won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

In 2006, she became the first major recording artist to perform live in avatar form within the virtual world Second Life. She has dedicated much of her time and energy to charitable causes, notably Amnesty International, Casa Alianza, and the Save Darfur Coalition. Suzanne has a daughter, Ruby, by first husband Mitchell Froom. Ruby, like Suzanne before her, attends the High School for the Performing Arts. Suzanne is married to lawyer/poet Paul Mills who proposed to her originally in 1983. Suzanne accepted his proposal on Christmas Day 2005, twenty two years later.

99.9 F.
Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega is an artist that continues to surprise. In 2011 in New York City she premiered Carson McCullers Talks About Love, an original play written and performed by Ms. Vega with songs she wrote with Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) A pioneer among singer-songwriters. Suzanne has also embarked on a project to re-imagine her own songbook in a stripped down and intimate manner, creating 4 new thematic albums that will be released over the course of 2010-2012 called the Close-Up series.

Ms. Vega continues to tour constantly, having just played dates with artists as diverse as Moby and Bob Dylan. Suzanne is planning US and European dates this spring and summer.

'Dylan towers over everyone' / Salman Rushdie, Kate Tempest and more pay tribute to Bob Dylan

'Dylan towers over everyone' – Salman Rushdie, Kate Tempest and more pay tribute to Bob Dylan

Salman Rushdie, Cerys Matthew, Jarvis Cocker, Andrew Motion, Billy Bragg and other artists and writers pick their favourite moments from Dylan’s body of work

Jarvis Cocker: ‘His sense of humour is often overlooked’

I’m very fond of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – I got into Bobby Bare’s version first (Steve Mackey and I put it on a compilation called The Trip that we put together in 2006). It’s a great break-up song: he’s making light of it, but one or two little digs show that he is actually a bit upset. My favourite verse goes: “I wish there was something you would do or say / To try and make me change my mind and stay / But we never did too much talking anyway /Don’t think twice, it’s all right.” I think Dylan’s sense of humour is often overlooked – when we did a BBC 6Music Sunday Service to mark his birthday a couple of years ago, a lot of the archive clips were hilarious. A great choice by the Nobel committee.

New Again / Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Phobo by Bill Hayward
New Again

In New Again, we highlight a piece from Interview's past that resonates with the present. 

Photography BILL HAYWARD
Published 07/25/12

On July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan plugged in his 1964 Fender Stratocastor electric guitar at the Newport, Rhode Island Folk Festival. Goodbye Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, hello Bob, the rock ‘n roll man. His decision was not well received at the time—although it was Dylan's third consecutive year playing at the folk festival, it was the first time he received heckling from the crowd. Today, however, Dylan's Stratocastor is considered "the Holy Grail" of music memorabilia. In celebration of Dylan's once controversial decision, we've decided to revisit one of our favorite features with Mr. Dylan from February of 1986.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why I took the slow train to become a fan of Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Photo by Ken Regan
Illustration by Triunfo Arciniegas

Why I took the slow train to become a fan of Bob Dylan

How 1984 marked the start of my career as a poet and my admiration for the Nobel prize-winning songwriter

Simon Armitage
Friday 14 October 2016 19.04 BST

s a poet, I’m supposed to be attracted to Bob Dylan as a lyricist. Even as a fellow poet. That’s the received wisdom, and it’s certainly true that I’ve come to Dylan through a series of recommendations and tips, nearly always from other writers. It was the poet Matthew Sweeney who first explained to me that Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home were the two albums I shouldn’t be able to exist without. And it was Glyn Maxwell who explained to me that the best of Dylan didn’t stop with Blood On The Tracks. 

Bob Dylan’s a poet – and now we know it

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s a poet – and now we know it

Friday 14 October 2016 18.28 BST

At long last something to celebrate (Bob Dylan wins Nobel prize in literature, 14 October). After all the doom and gloom about Brexit and the vacuous rantings of Donald Trump, Dylan’s Nobel prize restores one’s faith in life. What makes Dylan worthy of such an honour is that, like all great literature, lovely musical words resonate with an honesty and intelligence that give us a unique insight into the human condition. As the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said: “We hoped the news would be received with joy.” And so it should. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Women on Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Photo by Ken Regan
Poster by T.A.

Women on Bob Dylan

As Bob Dylan becomes the first singer-songwriter to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, five female artists salute his genius

The Observer
Illustration by Malika Favre
Sunday 16 October 2016 09.15 BST

Suzanne Vega, singer-songwriter: ‘I see goddesses and queens and women revered in his music’

Suzanne Vega by Pal Hansen

I am thrilled for Bob Dylan and I think it’s very appropriate that he’s being praised for the literary excellence of his work. The citation credits him with having created “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” and that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s not being honoured as a musician but for the depth and breadth of his vision and the eloquence of the language with which he expresses it. He has every literary device in his songs: character, narrative, style.

Angela Carter / Bob Dylan on tour / 1966

Bob Dylan by Malika Favre

Bob Dylan on tour

by Angela Carter


The Observer
Sunday 16 October 2016 09.15 BST

Performing, he’s nothing but a shadow to look at, thin and black-clad and linear, a Beardsley hobgoblin. The little pointy face, so white it is almost blue in the spotlight, is shadowed by a baroque mound of curls. His gestures are harsh, angular and sketchy – insolent, asexual, frequently reminiscent of those of the Scarlet Hex Witch of the comic books. He seems at times to be sending up the overtly sexual writhings of the English pop stars of the new wave (ie Jagger).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Suze Rotolo / The girl on the cover of the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

The cover for the album 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan', released by Columbia Records in 1963,
featuring Suze Rotolo and the Dylan walking in Greenwich Village.
Photo by Don Hunstein

The girl on the cover of the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Suze Rotolo obituary

Suze Rotolo was the girl on the cover of the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan – a long-haired 19-year-old strolling down a snow-covered Greenwich Village street on the arm of a 21-year-old folk singer whose words and music would shortly be affecting the worldview of a generation. Rotolo, who has died of lung cancer, aged 67, was destined to become part of the Dylan legend: the girlfriend who inspired some of his finest early songs, including Boots of Spanish Leather, One Too Many Mornings, Tomorrow Is a Long Time and Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.

Suze Rotolo / Tomorrow is a long time

Suze Rotolo

Tomorrow is a long time

Suze Rotolo was just 17 when she fell in love with Bob Dylan, who found her 'the most erotic thing' he'd ever seen. Through the photograph on his Freewheelin' album cover, they came to embody the ideal of the carefree 60s couple. Finally, she is telling her story. Richard Williams met her in New York's East Village

Richard Williams
Saturday 16 August 2008 00.01 BST

n a Greenwich Village bookstore, a window is filled with a poster that replays a familiar image. A boy and girl are walking down a snow-covered street, arm in arm, lost in some private paradise. He is hunched against the cold. Their heads are together. She is laughing. The photograph was taken 45 years ago, a stone's throw from where the shop stands. It went around the world, touching countless young lives. And now it has come back home.

Why Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel literature win

Bob Dylan

Why Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel literature win

There will be some who doubt Dylan’s right to the Nobel prize in literature. There are others who believe he should get a special Nobel just for being Bob Dylan

Richard Williams
Thursday 13 October 2016 14.24 BST

So, to confront the familiar argument, can what he does be called literature? And if he is being judged on literary grounds, should Tarantula, his “novel” of the mid-60s (started and abandoned in 1965, widely bootlegged and finally published officially in 1971), be taken as evidence? His fans know the first line by heart – “Aretha / Crystal jukebox queen of hymn & him” – but few reached the end. There was no music, as Dylan himself must have realised when he set it aside.