English painter. He studied in London at Chelsea School of Art (1988–91) and the Royal College of Art (1991–3). In 1992 he was awarded a travelling scholarship to Zimbabwe, an experience that profoundly influenced his approach to painting. His works are vibrant, technically complex and meticulously executed, consisting of layers of paint, resin, glitter and collage. Ofili often incorporated elephant dung into his work. Lumps are attached to the canvas directly or used to support the paintings when displayed in the gallery space. His paintings are concerned with issues of black identity and experience and frequently employ racial stereotypes in order to challenge them. Thus in Afrodizzia (1996; London, Saatchi Gal.), the work makes reference to the stereotype of black sexual potency, and magazine cut-out faces are given 1970s Afro hairstyles, their names written in pinheads on lumps of dung. Ofili draws on a wide range of cultural references, from the Bible to jazz and hip hop music, from Blake and Rodin to pornographic magazines. This breadth of allusion is emphatic in the Captain Shit series which features a black superhero inspired by 1970s comic books, surrounded by a band of black stars. The humorous aspect of the depiction of an ostensibly powerful but also vulnerable superhero is recurrent in Ofili's work. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1998. By 2000 his work was in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
S. Morgan: ‘The Elephant Man: Stuart Morgan on Chris Ofili', Frieze, xv (1994), pp. 40-3
Chris Ofili (exh. cat. by G. Worsdale and L. G. Corrin, Southampton, C.A.G.; London, Serpentine Gal.; 1998)
10 December 2001