Text by Katja Räisänen | Copy Editor Matthew Jones | Photo by Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom, Chantal Joffe
Chantal Joffe at Galerie Forsblon, photograph: Katja Räisänen
Chantal Joffe at Galerie Forsblon, photograph: Katja Räisänen

Artist Chantal Joffe is a master of capturing the personalities of her subjects and everyday moments as they are, sometimes with a sense of humour. “I paint what I know. I know how it feels to be a woman and a mother. I remember what it felt like to be a child,” says the artist. 

Chantal Joffe is an acclaimed contemporary artist whose self-portraits and portraits come close. Her newest artworks have been on show at Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki this November. This British artist is a master of capturing the personalities of her subjects and everyday moments as they are – sometimes with a sense of humour. It is easy to indentify with the characters in her strong paintings.

What does painting an artwork of a person mean to you?

I have only ever been interested in painting people. I have tried painting landscapes and still-lives but only people really occupy me.

Chantal Joffe The Conversation II, 2016 Oil on canvas 55 x 40.5 cm Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom
Chantal Joffe, The Conversation II, 2016, Oil on canvas, 55 x 40.5 cm, photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

Strong self-portraits are a distinctive part of your work. What do these works mean to you?

I like painting self-portraits because you don’t have to worry about how the subject feels. I have complete freedom. I can be as honest as I want.

 

Chantal Joffe Standing Self-Portrait, 2016 Oil on board 201.6 x 90 x 6 cm Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom
Chantal Joffe, Standing Self-Portrait, 2016, Oil on board, 201.6x90x6cm, Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

 

You seem to paint more women and children. If this is correct, why?

I paint what I know. I know how it feels to be a woman and a mother. I remember what it felt like to be a child.

Chantal Joffe, Bella Reclining, 2016 Oil on board, 40 x 50 cm, Photographer: Angel Gil
Chantal Joffe, Bella Reclining, 2016, Oil on board, 40 x 50 cm, photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

 

 The emphasis in Galerie Forsblom exhibition Family is on close people and relatives, is there a particular reason for that?

For some reason I can only use pastels to draw people I know, it’s something to do with the immediacy of the medium. That’s why the subjects are all family.

Is there a particular artwork in this exhibition that you want to point out?

The series of self-portraits in pastel are important to me. I felt as if I was getting inside the figure – they had a real urgency.

 

Chantal Joffe, Self-Portrait in the Garden at Night III, 2016, Pastel on paper, 40x30cm, Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom
Chantal Joffe, Self-Portrait in the Garden at Night III, 2016, Pastel on paper, 40x30cm, Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

In this exhibition one can see many beautiful pastel works. Have you started working more with pastels and is there a reason for that?

I started using pastels about a year ago. I couldn’t believe the colors – the richness of the pure pigment. It felt incredibly exciting to me. I couldn’t stop making them.

 

Chantal Joffe Emily with Sugar III, 2016 Pastel on paper With frames 48 x 38cm Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom
Chantal Joffe, Emily with Sugar III, 2016, Pastel on paper, With frames 48x38cm, Photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

How has your way of looking at people changed throughout the years, or has it?

I don’t know – I am too inside the work to judge that. I think the paintings keep changing.

What do you feel about the culture of social media portraits and selfies?

I am not surprised that people like making selfies, we are all deeply fascinated to ourselves. If you show someone a packet of photographs, they will hunt through it to find ones of themselves.

 

Chantal Joffe, Family, Galerie Forsblom, Oct 28 – Nov 20, 2016