Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough Unveil Friendship Portraits At The NPG

Chantal Joffe

London’s National Portrait Gallery is presenting a new display exploring the unique artistic collaboration inspired by a close friendship of two painters over many years. The new portraits, many seen for the first time, Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough is the first joint display of works by the two artists and follows their shared history from their student days at Glasgow School of Art to the present. Amongst them and reflecting this important collaboration is a newly acquired painting for the Gallery’s permanent collection Two Girls by Ishbel Myerscough, announced today. Myerscough painted the double portrait for her graduation show at Glasgow School of Art in 1991.

The self-portraits, portraits of each other, and of their children have been a consistent thread in the artists’ work and it is in these that, in Chantal Joffe’s words, the ‘ongoing echoes following the now through the past’ can be explored. Using each other as models, the artists attempt to search out what it feels like to be each other, and in turn, themselves. As the mothers of young children they have recorded their relationships with unsentimental images, and in their paintings of their daughters Bella and Esme the artists race to capture them before they become self-conscious.

Their relationship, which is mainly conducted on the telephone, punctuates the solitude of days and nights in the studio. Alongside the single-mindedness and isolation of being an artist, and the multiple identities of being a partner and mother, their friendship provides a support system and mutual understanding of what it’s like to be an artist in the twenty-first century.

Sarah Howgate, Curator of Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough, says: ‘While both artists admire the other’s way of working, their artistic practice and aesthetic remain different. Chantal paints expansive and gestural marks at speed which, although they may appear casual, are carefully considered. Ishbel paints painstakingly slowly on a relatively small, sometimes miniature scale, and with a clear, unflinching vision’.

Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough is curated by Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Her previous exhibitions at the Gallery include Lucian Freud Portraits and David Hockney Portraits.

Born in 1969, Chantal Joffe lives and works in London. She holds an MA from the Royal College of Art and was awarded the Royal Academy Woollaston Prize in 2006. Joffe has exhibited nationally and internationally at the Jewish Museum, New York (2015, solo); Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (2015, solo); Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy (2014 – 2015); Saatchi Gallery, London (2013 – 2014); MODEM, Hungary (2012); Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow (2012); Il Capricorno, Venice (2011, solo); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2011); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York (2009); University of the Arts, London (2007); MIMA Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (2007); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2005); Galleri KB, Oslo (2005) and Bloomberg Space, London (2004).

Born in 1968, Ishbel Myerscough studied at Glasgow and the Slade Schools of Art; she won First Prize in the National Portrait Gallery’s annual BP Portrait Award competition in 1995 and as a result was commissioned to paint Dame Helen Mirren’s portrait for the collection and subsequently Sir Willard White.

Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough (11 June-28 September 2015) Room 41, 41a, Admission free