'Why are there no men? It's because I think about women and their thoughts and ideas, and I suppose when I'm painting them I'm getting to be them, in a sense'.
Chantal Joffe, in conversation with Stella McCartney, Interview, 3rd August 2009.
The female figure is the constant subject of Joffe's bold and distinctive work. Whether they are catwalk models, porn actresses, mothers or children, Joffe gives unprejudiced attention to each in a lively and witty manner. She assumes an observational role in her paintings akin to the manner of a naturalist, fascinated by human behaviour. This adopted viewpoint results in unsentimental portraits which convey an emotional intensity that recalls the tradition of Alice Neel (see lot 18). Women confront the viewer in a variety of poses from the mundane to the explicit but Joffe's viewpoint remains one of open observation rather than judgement. She questions assumptions about what makes a noble subject for painting and challenges conventional ideas of feminist art.
The source of Joffe's paintings derives from her own photographs of personal friends and from various photos and snapshots found in fashion magazines. The fashion world has long attracted Joffe's observing eye, sharing in fashion's celebration of the female form and its fascination with beauty. With these images as a starting point, Joffe then enriches them through her own interpretations, seen in the distortions of the brush, loosely applied paint and her reworking of the picture space. By drawing attention to the physicality of the painting process, Joffe injects her works with an irresistible energy.
The present work engages the viewer through fluid brushwork and an expressive rendering of form that is also strangely confrontational. White Silky Knickers is not the erotic subject it might first appear on the surface. The scale of the canvas allows no room for a flattering pose or a subtle application of paint, and the model's plain but direct expression removes any sense of voyeurism. Rather, the painting reveals Joffe's sharp eye for observation; one that is insightful and honest and readily plays on the humour of everyday awkwardness.
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