Tate Britain – Chris Ofili: 5 out of 5

Juxtapoz // Monday, 22 Feb 2010

Tate Britain – Chris Ofili (January 27 – May 16 2010): 5 out of 5


Review by Vera Blagev


The Tate Britain has started the new year with an explosive show by former Turner Prize winner, Chris Ofili. The mid-career retrospective traces Ofili’s evolution from relying on shocking materials and provocative subject matter to spirituality and the subtle language of his latest paintings.


Interestingly, as modern art has moved on with new mediums based on technology and subject matters that continue to push the line of what is acceptable and what is art, using elephant dung in art no longer seems as outrageous as it did back in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, Ofili’s work hasn’t lost its power to inspire the viewer. Ofili’s work may draw influences of others in inconspicuous ways, but it is unmistakeably and uniquely his own. For example, his early use of small dots or beads of paint may hearken back to Australian aboriginal art, but Ofili makes that element his own. Similarly, the use of pop figure references and teenage glitter is not new, but it is imaginative in combination with the other elements of his work.



Halfway through the exhibition, the viewers are led through a dark hallway to cleanse the senses and prepare them for the visual onslaught that is room 3. In an enclosed dark space reminiscent of a place of worship, the Upper Room paintings stand out as vintage Chris Ofili.


The last two rooms of the exhibition are dedicated to Ofili’s work since he moved from London to Trinidad in 2005. Gone are the loud elements of his earlier works. No animal faeces. No glitter. No beads. Just fluid colour caressing larger than life canvasses. In abandoning all his previous tricks, Ofili lets the paint speak for itself. And what a fascinating tale it spins. I can’t wait to see what’s next in the storybook.





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