A Perfect Sunday | Chantal Joffe

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At what point do you fall in love with an artist? At first sight?

It can happen. A moment, as unexpected as falling in love with anyone else. But with an artist, there’s a sense of, “How did I not know you existed before now?”

Chantal Joffe dropped into my world at the Whitechapel Gallery, where her painting Two Coats, 2009, Oil on board, featured as part of the Iself Collection: The End of Love exhibition. Two smiling women, two coats – it felt like a splash of sunshine. I’d spent the whole afternoon wandering, Shoreditch to Spitalfields to Whitechapel to wherever, absorbing energy. For me, a trip to London is a bit like getting enough Vitamin D from the sun in summer – I literally have to soak it all up until I’m there again next. I was due to meet girlfriends in chilly Brighton the next day, to chat, eat and drink. I wanted to be those women, to be smiling, to be wearing those coats.

So I come away to read more about Chantal Joffe, and it all falls into place. Not only is she around my age (four years older) but in her largely figurative art practice she usually paints women and girls, and they curve and they sit and they digress and they droop, in sometimes pale and luminous, sometimes bold, intense paint strokes – but they always look at us as if all of that should be OK. And as an observer looking back, it is.

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Then in a perfect round of synchronicity or serendipity, I find that Joffe is one of the artists commissioned to create a major new work for the Crossrail Art Programme which will be unveiled when the new Whitechapel Crossrail station on the London Elizabeth line opens in December 2018. A series of small-scale collages enlarged onto laser-cut aluminium, it is entitled, A Sunday afternoon in Whitechapel. She hopes to evoke a sense of this bustling inner city area with its hospital and market, and the diversity of all those who inhabit it. For her, walking around the area with her daughter and taking time to sit, look, think and draw constitutes the, ‘perfect Sunday’. Once again, life reflecting art, reflecting life.

Top Image: Chantal Joffe, A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel, 2017 (detail). Collage on paper, 50.5 × 35 cm © Chantal Joffe. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Find out more about Chantal Joffe at Victoria Miro and on Artsy.

ArtDebra O'SullivanComment