Opening this week: Chantal Joffe at Victoria Miro

The London-based artist Chantal Joffe relishes the quirks afforded by paint and brush, forgoing photo-like reality for a more intuitive depiction of her subjects—one that is at points humorous, warm and characterful. Joffe returns to Mayfair’s Victoria Miro tomorrow, for her seventh solo exhibition with the gallery. 

The exhibition will feature works of the artist’s close circle alongside distinguished writers, typically with fluid movements and a fleshy palette. The paintings have been created from the images reproduced in writers’ biographies, who are often depicted engrossed in life with lovers, partners, children and parents, and are given a new existence in Joffe’s works.

While the style is distinctly non-photographic, the subjects display the familiarity and casual stance that is reminiscent of family snapshots, at times with gentle smiles and a hazy, golden light suggestive of moments socialising outdoors. But in these images too there is a complexity of character, the relationships are intriguing and perhaps not entirely straightforward.

Here, Joffe delves into the essence of confessional poetry, and the ‘nature of the lived experience’, as explored by Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell midway through the last century. The weighty medium of painting is given a stage here, but so too the casual element of close bonds. Her Family Pictures pastels have a similar sense of immediacy of line, created from life and depicting those closest to her. Her subjects here are familiar (even to the unknown viewer), complicated and, of course, absolutely human.

Chantal Joffe is showing at Victoria Miro from 22 January – 24 March 2016

Chantal Joffe Sheridan, Caroline, Ivana and Robert, 2015 Oil on board 27.9 x 35.5 cm 11 x 14 in
Chantal Joffe Jean and Robert, 2015 Oil on board 40.7 x 30.5 cm 16 1/8 x 12 1/8 in
Chantal Joffe Brunette in Stripes, 2015 Oil on board 28 x 21 cm 11 1/8 x 8 1/4 in
Chantal Joffe Ted and Sylvia, 2015 Oil on canvas 50.4 x 40.8 cm 19 7/8 x 16 1/8 in
Chantal Joffe Robert, Harriet and Elizabeth, 2015 Oil on board 30.5 x 40.7 cm 12 1/8 x 16 1/8 in
Chantal Joffe Brocade Dress, 2015 Oil on board 182.9 x 121.9 cm 72 x 48 in
Chantal Joffe Assia, 2015 Oil on board 40.7 x 30.5 cm 16 1/8 x 12 1/8 in
Chantal Joffe White Collar, 2015 Oil on canvas