A sumptuous show at the Lowry in Salford pairs works by two artists depicting female experience.
Long before #MeToo, many art lovers — mainly women but also some men — worried about female nudes. Sometimes we voiced our concerns. Sometimes, weary of being told that Titian, Picasso and peers were actually empowering their naked female subjects, we kept quiet.
We also felt ambivalent ourselves. Even when constructed by other women, female bodies are frequently sinister and complex. Think of Jenny Saville’s expansive yet ensnared Madonnas; Alice Neel’s spiky neurotics; Francesca Woodman’s evanescent shape-shifters; Tracey Emin’s fearsome, disembodied crotches.
Occasionally however a painter breaks free of this seductive darkness. One was the German expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker. Another is the contemporary British artist, Chantal Joffe. Now a new show, Personal Feeling is the Main Thing, at the Lowry in Salford, brings together those two shining talents.
Image: Chantal Joffe, Esme with a Striped Blanket, 2005
Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cm, 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in
© Chantal Joffe
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice