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In the studio with… Chantal Joffe

7 June 2021

In her paintings and pastels, Chantal Joffe explores the lives and experiences of women. Whether drawn from life, from photographs or from other sources such as magazines, Joffe’s figures are all rendered in the same distinctive gestural style, highlighting the physical process of their creation. Born in Vermont, at the age of 13 the artist moved with her family to London, where she now lives and works – and where an exhibition of recent paintings depicting Joffe’s mother, Daryll, is currently on view at Victoria Miro (until 31 July). A companion digital exhibition inspired by Lucian Freud’s paintings of his own mother, Lucie, can be viewed on the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s website (until 8 August).

Where is your studio?
Near Old Street.

What do you like most about the space?
I love everything about it – but most of all that it looks on to the canal.

What frustrates you about it?
Nothing at all (maybe the mice).

Do you work alone?
I work alone, unless I have someone sitting for me.

Story (2020), Chantal Joffe.

Story (2020), Chantal Joffe. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro; © Chantal Joffe

How messy is your studio?
I think most people would describe it as quite messy – but I think it’s not so messy, and fairly organised. I like to be always moving around when I am working in it.

What’s the weirdest object in there?
There’s a lot of competition for that. Maybe the large stuffed toy camel on wheels or the 1970s Adventure People doll’s house.

Which artistic tool could you least do without?
That’s difficult. I use my palette knife every half hour or so to clear my palette, so that’s pretty important.

Train to Vermont (2020), Chantal Joffe.

Train to Vermont (2020), Chantal Joffe. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro; © Chantal Joffe

What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?
I think it would be an old copy of a very good biography of Anne Sexton or my copy of the catalogue for a Matisse show I saw at MoMA in 1992.

What’s your typical studio lunch?
My lunches change a lot. I had a period of passion for spicy chicken and rice from On the Bab via Deliveroo – but more often it’s a tuna sandwich, baked beans on toast or a toasted cheese.

What do you listen to while you’re working?
Sometimes Radio 4, sometimes Joni Mitchell or Nick Cave on an old CD player. But usually nothing.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?
Often. I have a very old Muji sofa bed and sometimes I sleep in the afternoon and sometimes I sleep in the studio overnight – it’s incredibly peaceful and quiet.

Is anything (or anyone) banned from your studio?
Boris Johnson is not welcome in my studio.

‘Chantal Joffe: Story’ is at Victoria Miro, London, until 31 July.