Sunday 17 January 2021

Chris Offili


Chris Ofili at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.

Chris Ofili is famous for shocking the world by using elephant dung on a painting of the Virgin Mary. In 1998 Ofili was the first black artist to be awareded the Turner Prize. As well as being provocative, his work is embroiled in a nuanced and complex set of religious and socio-political issues.

His early works draw on a wide range of influences, from Zimbabwean cave painting to blaxploitation movies, fusing comic book heroes and icons of funk and hip-hop. While adopting a simplified colour palette and pared-down forms, his recent works continue to draw on diverse sources of inspiration and are full of references to sensual and Biblical themes as well as explore Trinidad's landscape and mythology.

His primary interest is in documenting and celebrating Black experiences and memorialising and challenging instances of racist violence. He also often returns to themes of religion, particularly as displayed throughout art history.

His paintings often mix Western and Nigerian iconography and ideas in one canvas and also use collage and multimedia techniques to suggest multiplicity and diversity coming together in one space. Almost all of his work deals with elements of Black experience. The work is explicitly anti-racist and often challenges while supremacy and its real (in the streets) and symbolic (in galleries) violence. Ofili is also one of the few artists to make work about police violence against black people, here using a subdued, dark palette, very different to his bright, dynamic paintings.

Liar, (Flue), 200902015 (watercolour, charcoal, pencil on paper)

Black Paranoia, 1997, (mixed media)

Calypso 13, 2019, (watercoour, pastel, gold leaf, and charcoal on paper)

Untitled, 2003, (watercolour and graphite on paper).

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