Chantal Joffe at Victoria Miro Gallery London  22 January - 24 March 2016

 

This exhibition comprises of oil paintings and pastel drawings of Joffe’s family, intermingled with portraits of writers painted with a similar intimacy as her family portraits.

The vivid, thickly painted, gestural marks are simple, yet convey a psychological depth and familiarity between the subject and painter. Painted from her own family snapshots or from family photographs reproduced in the writer’s biographies, the pared down images are imbued with an emotion and knowledge that seems to extend beyond what can be seen in a photograph. Ted and Sylvia, 2015, a painting of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has the same informality and naturalness as seen in the painting of Joffe’s daughter Esme in the Garden, 2015. In referring to these writers by their first names Joffe reveals to us the extent of her feelings of closeness to these people she has never met. Their poetry has inspired Joffe’s paintings for a long time, but as she has felt the changing emotions and dynamics of family life, the writings of Plath, Sexton and Lowell have a greater poignancy, so they once more feature in her work.

The group of pastels, Family Pictures, use line, pattern and the figure to dissect the picture plane. The cropped compositions bring to mind the random, cut-off configurations often seen in the fast snapshot, referencing the photographic source material.

The on-going selection and the movement and life in the application of paint and mark making, reinforces to the viewer the materiality of the paint and the engagement of the artist in making the work. Joffe is present in all the paintings, not only the self-portraits.

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