Ofili started his series of red, black and green paintings in 2000 and brought them together in an imaginative tour de force in the British Pavillion, at the 2003 Venice Biennale. The artist collaborated once again with David Adjaye to create an immersive sensory experience. The paintings tell a story of romantic enchantment using only the colours of the pan-African union flag.
Chris Ofili’s Union Black 2003, a red, black and green version of the Union Jack is flying over Tate Britain’s Millbank entrance for the duration of the exhibition.
They’re paintings about old-fashioned ideas of paradise. Red, black and green represent African nationalism and black unity – there’s a connection with Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, the Black Panthers and militant political groups in the 1970s and 1960s. In a way, it’s a pointer back to those times, and an experiment to see what happens when those colours, or those points of view, are brought back into the modern day.
Chris Ofili, in Jonathan Jones ‘Paradise Reclaimed’, Guardian, 15 June 2002
The themes of Freedom and Unity, with their African / African-American resonances, sustained so powerfully… by the restricted red, green and black colours… have been pushed forwards, thematically, another half turn – further towards Love and Romance.
Stuart Hall, ‘Chris Ofili in Paradise: Dreaming in Afro’, Chris Ofili: Within Reach exhibition catalogue, British Council 2003