Chris Ofili is a British artist dubbed ‘Hip, cool and wildly inventive’ by The Guardian, and know for his intensely colourful and intricately ornamented works which play on themes of pop culture, beliefs and profanity.
Having been born in Manchester, growing up around the activities of the NF and radical rights in the 70s, Ofili went on to study at Chelsea School of Art from 1988-1991 and at the Royal College of Art from 1991-1993, and eventually became recognised through shows by Charles Saatchi – in particular, at a North London exhibition called Sensation in 1997, Ofilli emerged as a member of the Young British Artist’s group.In 1998 Chris Ofili became the First Black British artist to win the Turner Prize, and represented Great Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.
He moved to Trinidad in 2005, reportedly to get away from the immersive pop culture of Britain, which often features in his work. Ofili has stated Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation films and gangsta rap (particularly music of the 90s and artists like Snoop Dogg) as inspiration, from which he looks for racial and sexual stereotypes and adds a dark humour to create his paintings of the profane and the tabboo.
One of Chris Ofili’s most shocking works, ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ is made of elephant dung and depicts nude bottom, and was viewed as disturbing to the extent that it sent shock waves through London.
His 1998 painting, ‘No Woman No Cry’ is a dedication to the murdered London teenager Stephen Lawrence. Within every tear shed by the woman in the painting, is a collage of Stephen Lawrence’s face, while the words “RIP. Stephen Lawrence” can be made out under the layers of paint. Although there are strong references to what inspired this particular piece, Ofili has said he wanted the piece to be a potryayal of melancholy and sorrow.
Click here to watch an interview published on Tate Britain’s website ahead of Ofili’s 2010 exhibition: