Chris Ofili

Edited by Judith Nesbitt. Texts by Okwui Enwezor and Attillah Springer. Interview with the artist by Ekow Eshun

The British painter Chris Ofili was born in Manchester in 1968 and is one of the most notable painters of his generation. He lives and works in London and Trinidad. Ofili's best-known works are complex and highly decorative canvases, built up from layers of paint combined with other materials including sequins, glitter, map pins and images cut from magazines. Their subject matter often refers to his Nigerian heritage and the wider African American and Afro-Caribbean experience, making reference to sources as diverse as Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation movies, comic books, funk and hip-hop album covers, pornography and the Bible. A trademark element in his paintings has been his use of varnished elephant dung, sometimes decorated with map pins, either as a support for the paintings of applied directly to the canvas. Ofili's painting The Holy Virgin Mary caused controversy when it arrived in Brooklyn in 1999 as part of the exhibition Sensation where it was attacked by the then-mayor Rudi Guiliani for being blasphemous. Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998 and represented Great Britain in the Venice Biennial of 2005. In recent years he has also created sculpture in bronze and numerous works on paper.

This catalogue illustrates works from throughout Ofili's career, including new works made especially for this exhibition. It includes an interview with the artist, giving insight into his inspiration and motivation, as well as including essays by leading critics that examine the remarkable achievements of an artist at the forefront of the contemporary art scene worldwide.


Publisher: Tate Publishing

Artists: Chris Ofili

Contributors: Okwui Enwezor, Ekow Eshun, Judith Nesbitt, Attillah Springer

Publication Date: 2010

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 8 1/4 x 10 in | 21 x 25.4 cm

Pages: 176

Reproductions: 130 color

ISBN: 9781854378811

Retail: $30

Status: Available

Chris Ofili

Since the mid-1990s, Chris Ofili has become well known for his vibrant, technically complex, and meticulously executed paintings and works on paper. While his early works were predominantly abstract, involving intricate patterns and colors, he has since developed a signature figurative style that bridges the gap between the sacred and the profane, and by extension, between high art and popular culture. His works center around the relationship between form and content: often using several layers of paint, resin, glitter, collage elements, and occasionally, elephant dung, Ofili enlists sexual, cultural, historical, and religious references to create uniquely aesthetic and physical works that expose the darker undercurrents of society, while also celebrating contemporary black culture. Drawing on a wide range of sources—from “blaxploitation” movies, the Bible, jazz and hip hop music, comic books, Zimbabwean cave paintings, and the works of artist and poet William Blake—Ofili’s subject matter frequently employs racial stereotypes in order to challenge and reinterpret them.

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