An English turner prize-winning contemporary painter and member of British Artist Movement. Chris Ofili large-scale paintings are reputed for deploying unconventional techniques rippling dots of paint, vibrant palette, variety of applied texture, resin, glitter, collage, magazine cut-outs and most famously elephant dung merging abstraction and figuration; examining and exploring both the contemporary and historical black experience challenging ethnic stereotypes. The artist was a centre of controversy for using elephant dung in his work titled The Holy Virgin Mary.
Chris Ofili was born in Manchester, Britain as Christopher Ofili on October 10, 1968, but his family is originally from Nigeria, studied in London at Chelsea School of Art and Royal College of Art. Under one-year exchange scholarship, he attended Universitat der Kunste Berlin and travelled to Zimbabwe on another scholarship. Chris Ofili artworks were heavily inclined by legendary artists such as Philip Guston, George Condo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Georg Baselitz, he established through exhibitions by Charles Saatchi and travelling exhibition “Sensation” and also he has been the founder of short-lived Freeness project goal to expose and highlight the creativity of minority artist by gathering artist, musicians, and producers from minority ethnic groups.
Chris Ofili paintings questioned ethnic and sexual stereotype referring Blaxploitation films and gangsta rap in a crafty and comical way, he showed desirous interest in African cave painting and that has a convincing effect on his artwork in “Harems”, which consist of a man and four women. Ofili’s artistries appeared decorative and pleasing, his painting often mixes with multiple iconography and thoughts into the canvas with the usage of collage and multimedia gathering in one. Concerning with the issues related to black identity and racial stereotype and in his creation “Afrodizzia” he canvased and challenged them.
The first set of Ofili etchings were published the same year, were on large canvases with glaring contract and colouring. The series consists of several prints revealing the sensitive and lyrical base of Ofili’s art using a different abstract visualized pattern to portray his inspiring visits to Barcelona, Berlin and New York and North Wales called his project as ‘an odd kind of tourism’. Chris Ofili’s ‘Sagrada Familia’ is the presentation of European city though Afrocentric visualization, imagery appears as abstract, linage resolve into pattern depicting baroque Buildings, sculpture, and individual imagination, influenced by his Zimbabwe visit and cave painting which uses self-hallucinatory style.
One of the most famous Chris Ofili’s paintings is “The Holy Virgin Mary” at Brooklyn Museum subjected by lawsuit and series of protest against. The controversial artwork was exhibited in 1999 as part of ‘Sensation’ travelling exhibits. The mural represents a Black Madonna hemmed in small pictures of Blaxploitation movies and a close-up of female private body parts from pornographic media and girlie magazines and lumps of elephant dung formed into shapes which like the cherubim and seraphim found in the imagery related to the immaculate supposition and conception of Mary. Ofili’s scandalous painting was number as 86 in “100 People Who are Screwing Up America” but Red Grooms showed assistance and purchase one of his paintings. Despite the incident, the artist accredited as among the few African decent British artists as a member of young British Artist.
Using various orientations from African culture, religion, music, the artist became the master of practising and experimenting with unconventional material, subject matter and techniques made him stand for the Turner Prize in 1998, collage work which was technically complex and pedantically portrayed the audacity and innovative nature. Through his artwork, Ofili explored highly diverse and historical themes referring to the black identity, ethical issues, cultural differences, and self-awareness.
In 2005 he Ofili travelled to Trinidad and officially made the Caribbean as his home which influenced his later work positively adopting simplified colour palette drawn on the inspiration of sensual and biblical themes exploring Trinidad’s scenery and mythology. The shift was evident in his upcoming murals exhibits his works in multiple solos and combine displays. The artist explains his shift to Trinidad as a place where he can grow without any restriction and feeling of objectified.
Chris Ofili’s work has sustained worldwide exhibitions remarkably back in New York with “Night and Day” as a critical acclaim retrospective. His works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh, the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Tate Gallery London, the Saatchi Collection London, the Walker Art Center Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Chris Ofili currently residing and works in Trinidad.
Chris Ofili BBC Documentary, Artist Journey
Imagine, Winter 2017 Chris Ofili, The caged bird