Anonymous, this is not about any one person or a particular artist. This project is akin to finding fading pages from an anonymous diary and placing them in a time capsule for future generations.
Chantal Joffe brings a combination of insight and integrity, as well as psychological and emotional force, to the genre of figurative art. Hers is a deceptively casual brushstroke. Whether in images a few inches square or ten feet high, fluidity combined with a pragmatic approach to representation seduces and disarms. Almost always depicting women or girls, sometimes in groups but recently in iconic portraits, Joffe’s paintings only waveringly adhere to their source – be it a photograph, magazine page or even a reflection in the mirror – instead reminding us that distortions of scale and form can often make a subject seem more real.
Joffe’s paintings always alert us to how appearances are carefully constructed and codified, whether in a fashion magazine or the family album, and to the choreography of display. There’s witty neutrality in a career-spanning line-up that has given equal billing to catwalk models, porn actresses, mothers and children, loved ones and literary heroines. Joffe questions assumptions about what makes a noble subject for art and challenges what our expectations of a feminist art might be. Appropriation of existing imagery has been a cornerstone, particularly in the works for which she first became known. Joffe ennobles the people she paints by rehabilitating the photographic image but, crucially, recognizes that it is paint itself – its spatio-temporal complexities rather than attendant theories or sociopolitical ideas surrounding subject matter – that keeps us engaged.
Born in 1969, Chantal Joffe lives and works in London. She holds an MA from the Royal College of Art and was awarded the Royal Academy Wollaston Prize in 2006. Joffe has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavík, 2016; National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015; Jewish Museum, New York, 2015; Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, 2015; Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy, 2014 – 2015; Saatchi Gallery, London, 2013 – 2014; MODEM, Hungary, 2012; Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow, 2012; Il Capricorno, Venice, 2011; Turner Contemporary, Margate, 2011; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York, 2009; University of the Arts, London, 2007; MIMA Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, 2007; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005; Galleri KB, Oslo, 2005 and Bloomberg Space, London, 2004.