Every so often someone or other (usually a Daily Mail reader, and usually around the time of the Turner Prize nominations) will call the death of painting. Of course, any reports of the painting's death are exaggerated, but with so many media available to hand it takes a real craftsperson to be able to push painting into a sphere that makes it suddenly feel new again, and relevant. I think we're not so great at painting nowadays, in general, us British (we're great at film, though).
Chantal Joffe, though, is great at painting and may just be the exception that proves the rule. With a new show opened at Victoria Miro, Joffe gives us what we want and what she does best. These seven large-scale portraits of women of renown draw on her practice of creating fictional portraits of women, drawn from sources as broad as family photos, fashion spreads, advertisting and pornography. This current show presents to us some of Joffe's artistic heroines: Susan Sontag, Emily Dickinson, Lee Krasner, to name just three.
The portraits are fictional, and paradigmatic but this is what makes them so utterly essential. Resemblances may be fleeting and the colours may be passive and restrained but there's the rub. The vitality and wonder of these personalities is in the thick materiality of the medium itself.