Chris Ofili, Blue Riders (Eye For Eye Tooth For Tooth), 2006

6 Oct – 10 Nov 2012 Victoria Miro, London

To take and to give is the title of the Chris Ofili’s solo exhibition that will be on display until 10th November 2013 at Victoria Miro Gallery in London. A fully illustrated catalogue Chris Ofili Ovid – Diana & Actaeon, with text by Catherine Lampert is available from Victoria Miro.

Chris Ofili came to prominence in the early 1990s with richly orchestrated paintings combining rippling dots of paint, drifts of glitter, collaged images and elephant dung – varnished, often studded with map pins and applied to the picture surface as well as supporting the canvas – a combination of physical elevation and symbolic link to the earth. In Ofili’s work the rhythmic patterning of painterly and cultural elements – sacred and profane, personal and political, from high and low culture – plays on ideas of beauty while also carrying messages about black culture, history and exoticism. His is a highly seductive art of braided connections that work on many levels, physically and metaphorically. Always displaying linear grace in addition to a surfeit of detail, Ofili’s recent works adopt simple, pared-down forms whilst continuing to be just as expansive, dramatic and romantic – full of references to sensuality, sexuality and his ongoing exploration of Biblical themes. Sculpture is an increasingly important element of his work, allowing for further experimentation with form and subject matter. Alongside the recent developments in the artist’s material choices, Ofili has remained faithful to a pictorial style that relies on a conscious flattening of the picture plane, carefully layered surfaces, and diverse sources of inspiration.

Over the past two years contemporary artist Chris Ofili has been busy producing a fantastic collection of paintings and work on paper inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The collection was created for ‘Metamophosis: Titian 2012’, a multi-arts project run by The National Gallery and The Royal Opera House as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s London 2012 festival. Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger were all selected to create new work responding to three of Titian’s greatest paintings: Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. Throughout the project, Ofili worked alongside choreographers and dancers from The Royal Ballet on sets and costumes, sparking this extraordinary new body of work (new painting, drawings and works on paper from this Ovidian series) which is now on display at Victoria Miro Gallery.

The centrepiece is an eight-metre painting where a pyramid of nymphs, presumably those in the goddess Diana’s grove, surge and fall against an abstracted, loosely patterned ground in a composition suggesting the flow of water, the rush of air, against clustering, dynamic bodies. Although the composition is masterly, the execution carries over a lightness from the smaller drawings and watercolour sketches that here surround it: sprinkled tropical colour, staining, smudges, enhance the sense of fluidity, unruly passion, a world in flux, evoked by Ovid, a Roman poet dealing in Greek mythology at the start of the Christian era.

Ofili’s serpentine, tapering, swooning nudes in ink and charcoal perfectly catch Ovid’s spirit of erotic play; luminous watercolours are full of pathos. Purple-robed, hairy-chested Actaeon, the young hunter turned into a deer, then killed by his own hounds, is a descendent of Ofili’s “Captain Shit”: strutting, fragile, doomed. Pastel landscapes draw on the luscious vegetation of Trinidad, where Ofili lives. By contrast, the moonlit “Ovid Windfall” depicts an ethereal presence releasing a vapour between slivers of colours which transforms into a female figure/spirit.

Chris Ofili | To take and to give | Victoria Miro | 6 oct ’12 – 10 nov ’12 

London | United Kingdom | ph. + 39 020 7336 8109


Christopher Ofili, known as Chris Ofili was born in 1968 in Manchester, England. He was a member of  the Young British Artists group (YBA, a loose group of visual artists supported and collected by Charles Saatchi and who first began to exhibit together in London, in 1988) and is best known for artworks incorporating elephant dung. In 1998 he won the Turner Prize and in 2003 was selected to represent Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale, where he presented his ambitious exhibition Within Reach. He has enjoyed many major international exhibitions dedicated to his work, in early 2010, Tate Britain presented the most extensive exhibition of his work to date. Other significant solo exhibitions include The Arts Club of Chicago (2010), Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2006), The Studio Museum In Harlem, New York (2005) and Serpentine Gallery, London (1998). Since 2005, Ofili has been living and working in Trinidad, where he currently resides in Port of Spain.