As part of its Contemporary Classics series, Elephant writes about Black Hands, Chris Ofili’s clock commission for PEER

By Holly Black

 

Last year, while taking a familiar shortcut through Hoxton Street in London on a particularly beautiful evening, I found myself in front of an enormous clock on the newly regenerated pavement that flanks Peer gallery, on the south end of the road. This twelve-foot installation, comprising two boxy segments, features site-specific works by Chris Ofili, the Turner Prize-winning artist known for exploring black culture, history and beauty, as well as issues of exoticism and police violence.

 

The clock, titled Black Hands, sports tiny “Afrohead” pencil drawings on its face in place of numbers, and underneath a gently revolving box displays four illuminated “Afromuses”. These fluid, vibrant watercolours depict black figures in brightly coloured, heavily adorned outfits, which seemed to shine brightly against the darkening sky during my chance encounter. The four portraits are part of an exhaustive series of imagined personalities that the artist produced over a ten-year period. He considers them a form of “intimate gratification”, where he can simply set his mind free, explaining: “Really it’s about a formal exercise – the enjoyment of the type of paper, the consistency of the watercolour, the softness of the brush, the way the paint will soak into or flow across the paper.”

 

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Image: Chris Ofili, Black Hands, 2016

Installation view, Peer, 97-99 Hoxton Street, London N1 6QL

Installation photography: Denis Guzel

Elephant Posted 6 May 2018

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