Room 5

Chris Ofili Afromuses Couples 1995 to 2000 paintings of an african woman in traditional dress and an African man in profile

Chris Ofili
Afromuses (Couple) 1995–2005
© Chris Ofili

For Ofili, painting with watercolour is a liberating way of working quickly, fluidly in series. In his Afromuses series of imaginative portraits, each figure is individualised by clothing, hairstyle, jewellery, and gender.

It’s a bit like jumping on a trampoline in the morning to get started and get the energy flowing. I also do them at night as a little bedtime story. Each one is made all in one sitting, from the beginning right to the end… They give me a sense of completion and spontaneity that feeds into other works.
Chris Ofili, in Ariella Budick, ‘Modern Folk Muses’, Newsday, 1 May 2005

Chris Ofili Afromuses Couple 1995 to 2000 painting of an African man and woman in traditional dress

Chris Ofili
Afromuses (Couple) 1995–2005
© Chris Ofili

I can give a glimpse of an individual character by making the eyes at a certain angle or placing the nose higher or lower in relation to the centre of the page, but really it’s about a formal exercise – the enjoyment of the type of paper, the consistency of the watercolour, the softness of the brush, the way the paint will soak into or flow across the paper.
Chris Ofili, in Christy Lange, TATE ETC Spring 2010

Chris Ofili Afromuses Couple 1995 to 2000 paintings of a African man and woman in traditional dress

Chris Ofili
Afromuses (Couple) 1995–2005
© Chris Ofili

There is a kind of radiance that emanates from the spreading liquidity of Chris Ofili’s Afromuses that makes them appear as if they are painted under sheets of glass rather than on sheets of textured aquarelle paper. Lit with streaks of brilliant jewel tones (aquamarine, coral, sapphire, emerald and jet), the watercolours appear to have seeped onto the surface of the paper from beneath.
Okwui Enwezor, ‘Vexations and the Pleasure of Colour: Chris Ofili’s Afromuses and the Dialectic of Painting’, in Chris Ofili exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain 2010

Chris Ofili Afromuses Couple 1995 to 2000 paintings of an African man and woman in traditional dress

Chris Ofili
Afromuses (Couple) 1995–2005
© Chris Ofili