Chantal Joffe is well known for her expressive paintings of predominantly female figures. This latest exhibition will include an eclectic and wide-ranging group of subjects across two distinct bodies of new work. In the main gallery, Joffe continues to work on the very large scale perfectly suited to her painterly assault on the canvas. Characterised by a fluid style and deliberate distortion of scale and form, these oversized paintings possess a distinct psychological and emotional force.
Much of Joffe's earlier work has been predicated on the "visible signage of the fashionable, especially the fashion photograph, and the fashion photograph's microsecond relations with ideas of human - female - social and sexual signalings". Hoping to find something new behind the fashion image, Joffe recently was given privileged access to personally photograph catwalk models backstage at Paris Fashion Week. She likened this is to a modern day equivalent of Degas entering the world of the Royal Ballet, describing: (in) Degas you get an extreme physicality: bending backs and cropped legs. In one sense what I saw backstage was like that perhaps, but it was also something completely other. You are plunged into thinking about the sort of girls who model and what was happening to them socially. The nuanced facial expressions and body language of the resulting group of intimately scaled paintings - Backstage (2007-2008) - conveys the unexpected vulnerability the artist encountered observing these models.
Above all, Joffe's paintings reveal a sincere command of human emotion. Discussing her work in the accompanying exhibition catalogue, writer Neal Brown concludes: Joffe has a 'disorder' in the sense that, working within the often anti-intuitive context of contemporary art, she not only seeks the truth of human emotions, but does so with unfashionable compassion and humanity. Diligently, thoughtfully, she attends to the one thing that is of most visual interest to human beings and their visual artists: the face - or, perhaps we should say, to the emotions and feelings as the face reveals and expresses them.