Chris Ofili’s spectacle at the Tate Britain is a vibrant, colourful and imaginative exploration of his own Afro-Catholic ancestry. The 1998 winner of the Turner Prize for his painting No Woman, No Cry, has produced seven rooms of art which guide you through his painting time-line.
After being greeted by a piece of elephant dung with an afro hairstyle in the first room, you may wonder what you’ve just paid good money to see. But, it won’t be long before you become fascinated by the talent surrounding you. It was on Ofili’s trip to Zimbabwe in 1992 that he first experimented with elephant dung, which became an integral part of his early works, as in his eyes it kept his work in touch with nature.
Ofili has combined some racy images with those that evoke serious emotion. One minute you’ll be faced with the 7 Bitches Tossing their Pussies before the Divine Dung, the next, you’ll be captivated by Ofili’s Turner Prize winner, portraying the mother of racist murder victim Stephen Lawrence, with prints of her son placed in her tear drops. Some of the artist’s work is inspired by personal emotion. This is juxtaposed against other works that render their influences from hip hop and Christian iconography.
At the heart of the exhibition, is a series of thirteen prints of monkey-gods; each experimented in a different colour scheme, with an influence from both Hinduism and Christianity. The Andy Warhol-like images create a spiritual and calming ambience.
Our journey through Ofili’s life continues as he begins using only the colours of the pan-African union flag; red, black and green, creating romantic and enchanting story-telling paintings, which is followed by an investigation into the form of the afro-feminine figure and the afro itself.
Ofili’s move to Trinidad in 2005 created a significant shift in his style of paintings. The final two rooms lose the glitz and dung, and are replaced by a new bold coloured palette. Natural and biblical themes emerge, creating fresh references into his African heritage.
As the most famous black artist in British history, Chris Ofili will not let you down. This exhibition is one not to miss! It’s on at The Tate Britain from 27th January – 16th May 2010. Students go half price if you print off the voucher at http://www.facebook.com/tategallery.
By Krysia Kozniewska