Chris Ofili


With references as diverse as traditional African art, images from popular culture, and hip-hop music, Chris Ofili?s paintings explore contemporary black urban experience. Ofili?s intricately layered works combine bead-like dots of paint, inspired in part by cave paintings in Zimbabwe, with collaged images from popular magazines and such materials as glitter and map pins. Since 1992 the artist has also included dried elephant dung acquired from the London Zoo among his materials. While alluding generally to his African heritage, Ofili deliberately misquotes the traditional ritual significance of dung in order to broaden the viewer?s interpretation of this material beyond its cultural meaning. Combined with his parodies of 1970s black exploitation movies, comic book super heroes, and "gangsta" rap music, Ofili?s work addresses a complex matrix of issues that challenge black stereotypes.

[cmoa web site]

Chris Ofili says 'the way I work comes out of experimentation, but it also comes out of a love of painting, a love affair with painting.' He mixes a wide range of cultural references, from the Bible to pornographic magazines, from 1970s comics to the work of artists such as William Blake. He also experiments outside the traditional confines of oil paint, introducing things like elephant dung into his work; he enjoys the tension between the beautiful paint surfaces and the perceived ugliness of the dung.

Virginia Button

[Tate Publishing, 2003.]