About the Artist
In Chris Ofili’s work painterly and cultural elements – both sacred and profane, personal and political, from high art and popular culture – come together to play on ideas of beauty while carrying messages about black culture, history and exoticism. Ofili came to prominence in the early 1990s with richly orchestrated paintings combining rippling dots of paint, drifts of glitter, collaged images and elephant dung – varnished, often studded with map pins and applied to the picture surface as well as supporting the canvas – a combination of physical elevation and symbolic link to the earth. He won the Turner Prize in 1998 and over the past two decades has exhibited in many international institutions. In 2003 he was selected to represent Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale, where he presented his ambitious exhibition Within Reach. In 2010 Tate Britain presented an extensive survey of his work and in 2014, Night and Day, held at the New Museum, New York, featured more than thirty of Ofili’s major paintings, in addition to drawings and a selection of sculptures from across his career. The exhibition travelled to the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado in 2015.
By Calvin Tomkins
Photograph by Malick Sidibé
Chris Ofili paints in a dilapidated white cottage on Lady Chancellor Road, about ten minutes from downtown Port of Spain, in Trinidad. It has three rooms, each large enough to accommodate one or two of the strange, dreamlike paintings he is working on. Aside from taking out the kitchen, Ofili has done nothing to the cottage. Rickety windows on one side are propped open with sticks. No air-conditioner, no screens, no studio assistant. The house clings to a steep hillside, the floor slants downhill, and the floorboards sag and groan. Most of the recent paintings in Ofili’s first major New York retrospective, which opens at the New Museum on October 29th, were done in these rooms.
Enjoy and engage with the process – you want to keep going into the unknown…