Chris Oflili Blossom 1997 painting of a black female figure with one breast exposed

Chris Ofili
Blossom 1997
© Chris Ofili Photo: courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

Chris Ofili was born in Manchester in 1968, and discovered his love of painting whilst on Foundation course at Tameside College of Technology (1987–88). He went on to study painting at Chelsea School of Art and Design (1989–1991) and at the Royal College of Art (1991–1993). Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998 and represented Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2005, he moved from London to Port of Spain, Trinidad.

This exhibition begins with a selection of the exuberant paintings Ofili produced in the 1990s. These richly layered paintings pulsate with the colour and energy of the artist’s intricate brushwork, to which he added glitter, resin, map pins, and collaged magazine cut-outs. He also applied elephant dung balls to the canvas and used them to prop the paintings on the floor. Challenging stereotypical representations of black culture, Ofili created his own contemporary iconography combining Afro celebration, hip hop and gangsta rap, with comic caricatures and Biblical imagery.

At the centre of the exhibition is the extraordinary sensory experience of The Upper Room 1999–2002. This series of 13 paintings is installed in a specially constructed vault designed in collaboration with architect David Adjaye. These celebrated works can now be reconsidered alongside the artist’s recent paintings, which are profoundly affected by his observation of Trinidad’s landscape, customs and beliefs. Brought together for the first time, this wide range of work demonstrates Ofili’s continual experimentation with painting and the eclectic nature of his visual inspiration – from hip-hop to spirituality, folklore, and the natural world.