At the Jerwood: Chantal Joffe, By the Seaside

This is more like it.  Hastings (and, occasionally St Leonards as if that were a different place) has been getting mentioned a fair bit in the travel sections recently and the Jerwood normally finds its name in them as a reason to visit.  And now with this exhibition, small as it is, the gallery has a show that justifies its appearance in such articles.

American-born but England-trained, Joffe specialises in large-scale portraits of deceptive simplicity.  They are almost all deeply unsettling for reasons that are hard to explain.  Eyes are prominent but they look like they’re trying not to meet your gaze, as if there is something going on that can’t be spoken.  The brush strokes are broad and the colours solid but, somehow, subtlety and expression emerge.  The fully clothed are treated in the same way as the totally naked.  Aspects of the background assume importance but details remain elusive.  And despite the uniformity of style there is variety of tone and purpose.  Even in such a small show there is much to explore and to dwell on.

With the usual caveats that the gallery isn’t free (unlike the nearby De la Warr or Towner) this is well worth visiting and Joffe is an artist well worth finding out more about.  Credit to the Jerwood for producing such a top quality and enlightening exhibition.

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