An exclusive, new exhibition from one of Britain’s foremost painters, Chantal Joffe is to open this Autumn at the Bristol’s Arnolfini.
Joffe is known for her intimate portrayal of women captured within rich layers of paint
her paintings feel ever more timely and poignant here in its ability to portray the ‘fragility of life’. Joffe explores the intimate act of painting and portraiture. Including several new works (many produced whilst in ‘lockdown’), highlights include a series of portraits of Joffe’s daughter, from older works such as Esme (First Painting), captured as a newborn swaddled in blankets, to the later, defiantly awkward Esme in White, painted within days of her sixteenth birthday this year.
Chantal Joffe: For Esme – with Love and Squalor, explores the intimate act of painting and portraiture, bringing back to life Arnolfini’s rich history of exhibiting pioneering painters. Taking its name from J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esmé – with Love and Squalor (1950) in which time hangs as heavy as the protagonist’s ‘enormous-faced chronographic-looking wristwatch’, the exhibition captures the changing faces across the years of Chantal and her daughter Esme, moving between mother and daughter, love and squalor, and the act of care and being cared for.
Including many new works (many produced whilst in ‘lockdown’), highlights include a series of portraits of Joffe’s daughter, from older works such as Esme (First Painting), captured as a newborn swaddled in blankets, to the later, defiantly awkward, Esme in White, painted within days of her sixteenth birthday this year.
These sit alongside some self-portraits, including the both intimate and monumental Bonnard inspired Reading in Bath I and III; never-before-seen series Pictures of What I Did Not See, which depicts Joffe undergoing a traumatic illness and being cared for by Esme and a series of startlingly honest self-portraits. Produced one a day over a year this 2018 series captures both the artist and her environment – from London’s cold winter light to the haze of summer in the stifling New York heat.
The relationship between subject and place (specifically the domestic interior) and solitude and company within each of these works feel especially resonant. To paraphrase co-curator Dorothy Price, art historian and long-time collaborator of Joffe, ‘traces a finger of time through the very act of being alive.’
Born in 1969, St. Albans, Vermont, USA, Chantal lives and works in London, UK. She holds an MA from the Royal College of Art and was awarded the Royal Academy Wollaston Prize in 2006. Joffe will create a significant new public work for the Elizabeth line station at Whitechapel. Titled A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel, the work will be on view when the Crossrail station opens in 2021. Her recent solo exhibition titled Personal Feeling is the Main Thing at The Lowry, Salford in 2018 presented works from across Joffe’s career and alongside works by the German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue Chantal Joffe For Esme – with Love and Squalor, featuring newly commissioned essays and interview from art historian, writer and curator Professor Dorothy Price, and writer Charlie Porter, a Turner Prize judge and contributor to The Financial Times and The Guardian. The publication will be available for purchase at £12 from Arnolfini Bookshop and for review via Arnolfini marketing.
Top Image: Esme at the Kitchen Table, Chantal Joffe, 2019, oil on canvas © Chantal Joffe courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro
ARNOLFINI PRESENTS CHANTAL JOFFE: FOR ESME – WITH LOVE AND SQUALOR 3 September to 22 November 2020
See the exhibition online