A woman approaches as if she is about to walk straight past us and out of the left edge of the painting. In this striking composition by Chantal Joffe, we are drawn close to the woman, yet she appears oblivious to our presence. As she walks by the water’s edge, the nature of her gaze is ambiguous. With her arms crossed, she gazes at something or someone not visible to us in the scene. The colour of her long auburn streaked hair sings out of the composition, matched by the orange hue. Muted tones of mauve and beige in the surrounding landscape, along with deep black, provide an additional contrast to the woman’s shock of red hair.
This painting was acquired in 2003 following an exhibition of Joffe’s paintings at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. The exhibition featured individual portraits of anonymous, and mainly young women, captured in a variety of poses and surroundings. Some appear to be faintly recognisable from images seen in contemporary magazines, advertisements and photographs. In each painting, the identity of the woman remained anonymous as Joffe did not provide specific names in any of the works’ titles.
Emerging in the 1990s, Joffe’s work focuses on (almost exclusively) female subjects. These include portraits of children, including her daughter Esme; women of different ages; and several self-portraits – in all of which Joffe combines an observant eye for character with a love of colour.
Born in St Albans, Vermont, USA, Chantal Joffe moved with her parents to London at the age of 13. After completing a foundation course at Camberwell School of Arts, she studied at the Glasgow School of Art (1988–91) and the Royal College of Art (1992–94). In 1991, Joffe won the NatWest 90’s Prize for Art. In 1998, she worked in Italy on an Abbey Scholarship at the British School of Rome. She was awarded the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition’s Wollaston Prize in 2006. In 2018, Joffe was commissioned by Crossrail to produce 'A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel' for Whitechapel Station in London.
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