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Artists Chris Ofili
Chris Ofili Photo

Chris Ofili

British Painter and Sculptor

Movement: Young British Artists

Born: 10 October 1968 - Manchester, England

Chris Ofili Timeline

Quotes

"A lot of black art that came before was set up to critique the system. I thought that was boring. Basically, you would have to be right all the time. And I was not interested in being right all the time. I wanted to be sincere and outrageous and friendly and rude and experimental and conventional. I just wanted to try to be who I am."
Chris Ofili
"My project is not a PC project. It allows you to laugh about issues that are potentially serious. There are no rules, and even the ones you set for yourself can be temporary."
Chris Ofili
"I always think of the work as coming out of hip-hop culture...looking at things with no hierarchy...I am trying to bring in, not everything, but a lot of the stuff that has been left out...to bring something up out of the rubble that's pleasing to look at."
Chris Ofili
"My work and the way that I work comes out of experimentation, but it also comes out of a love of painting, a love affair with painting."
Chris Ofili

"The studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never-ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion."

Chris Ofili Signature

Synopsis

Chris Ofili is famous for shocking the world by using elephant dung on a painting of the Virgin Mary, however as well as being provocative, his work is embroiled in a nuanced and complex set of religious and socio-political issues.

His paintings include unconventional craft materials such as glitter, map pins, glue and collage, as well as the more controversial elephant dung. His work is often seductively brightly colored, detailed, and heavily layered so that new details and images might appear on each viewing of a painting. Ofili’s primary interest is in documenting and celebrating Black experiences and memorializing and challenging instances of racist violence. He also often returns to themes of religion, particularly as displayed throughout art history.

Key Ideas

Hybridity is an idea introduced by postcolonial theorist, Homi Bhaba, to name the way that migration, particularly between places that have been colonized, and those doing the colonizing, produces new complex identities, which are a mix of multiple cultures, rituals, and ideas. Ofili's paintings often mix Western and Nigerian iconography and ideas in one canvas, and also use collage and multimedia techniques to suggest multiplicity and diversity coming together in one space.
Ofili's paintings often appear decorative, that is they are extremely pleasing to look at and use materials, such as glitter and map pins, associated with unserious aesthetic objects. To call a contemporary artist's work 'decorative' is usually an insult, as it suggests there is nothing beyond appearance in the work. Ofili challenges this by making delicate, beautiful images using techniques from traditional African and Aboriginal art, which then draw you into their political complexities.
Almost all of Ofili's work deals with elements of Black experience. The work is explicitly anti-racist and often challenges white supremacy and its real (in the streets) and symbolic (in galleries) violence. Ofili is also one of the few artists to make work about police violence against black people, here using a subdued, dark palette very different to his bright, dynamic paintings.

Biography

Chris Ofili Photo

Childhood

Born in 1968 in Manchester, England, to Nigerian parents, Chris Ofili was the second of four children. His parents had only been in the country for three years when he was born, and they worked hard to give their children a good life. They were both employed in the McVities biscuit factory, but Ofili's father, Michael, left the family when Chris was 11 years old and went back to Nigeria where he had another family.

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Chris Ofili Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Chris Ofili
Interactive chart with Chris Ofili's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Hans HofmannHans Hofmann
Jean-Michel BasquiatJean-Michel Basquiat
George Condo

Personal Contacts

Emheyo Bahabba

Movements

Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism
Pop ArtPop Art
British Black Art Movement

Influences on Artist
Chris Ofili
Chris Ofili
Years Worked: 1989 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Sanford Biggers

Personal Contacts

David Adjaye

Movements

Freeness

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Ingram

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Ingram
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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