WEEK 53: In Conversation with Chantal Joffe

Chantal Joffe - Profile Image

Chantal Joffe is one of the world’s leading figurative artists. She lives and works in London and is well known for her expressive paintings of mainly female figures. An exhibition of work from throughout her career forms part of the Week 53 festival taking place at The Lowry in Salford from 17-28 May.


What exactly is figurative art and what is the inspiration behind your own work?

 Figurative art is a broad term used to describe art that retains a strong resemblance to the real world – which in my case is almost always the human figure. People are my inspiration, wherever I am.


Tell us about the title of the exhibition, Personal Feeling Is the Main Thing

 It’s a quote by the pioneering German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907), who is recognised as the first female artist to have painted a nude self-portrait She died very suddenly eighteen days after giving birth to her first child.  Her work has always had a strong influence on me and I am delighted that we are including a number of her paintings and drawings in the exhibition.

How did this exhibition come about?

 The Lowry knew I admired Paula Modersohn-Becker and invited me to make an exhibition around an artist whose work I loved and was influenced by, so it was an easy decision to make.

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Where might we have seen your work before?

 Here in the UK, I exhibit at the Victoria Miro gallery and most recently I have shown work at the Whitechapel Gallery and at the Royal Academy of Arts, all in London. But I have also had exhibitions in New York, Milan and Helsinki amongst other places. This will be my first major solo exhibition in the North West. 


Week 53 celebrates ‘coming of age’ – is there a particular work in the collection coming to The Lowry that represents a ‘coming of age’ moment for yourself?

 The work Esme (first painting) 2004 of my new-born daughter Esme; that was a real coming of age moment for me. That said, I feel like I’m always ‘coming of age’ – and I like that. I have periods where I’ll paint a self-portrait every day – and it’s so funny how your mood changes, your face, the light and the world – and somehow those factors are all there, but different in each painting.


LS Lowry holds the record for turning down the most national honours offered to him – but he did accept (and embrace) the invitation to become a Royal Academician. What does being a Royal Academician mean to you?

 I love being able to go to the Royal Academy early in the morning before it opens, it’s a thrill to have the exhibitions all to myself!

 Well, I’m a huge fan of Lowry’s work and it’s a privilege to exhibit alongside the collection.


What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

 I’ve been working on a big public work for the new Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) station at Whitechapel. It’s called A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel and opens in December, I am also excited about my new book, which is being published to coincide with my exhibition at the Lowry and my exhibition that is currently on in Venice at Victoria Miro until 19 May.


Personal Feeling Is the Main Thing runs at The Lowry from Sat 19 May – Sun 2 September 2018.

Admission: Free. Donations welcome.