Welcome to the second post of the JTO Fashion “Artist of the Month” Series. If you missed the artist featured for January, Cai Guo-Qiang, you can read it (here)! For February, I decided to choose an artist I have written countless essays on – Chris Ofili. Ofili is undoubtedly an artist who has inspired the way I view artistic practice and consider what it means to create art.
Ofili, who is a second-generation immigrant from Nigeria, was born in Manchester 1968. He spent his youth schooling in Nigeria and Manchester, and then went on to study art in London and Berlin. Ofili rose to prominence through his affiliation with the group dubbed the Young British Artists. The ‘Young British Artists’ also known as the ‘YBA’s’ were a daring new faction of British artists who began exhibiting in the 1980s under the patronage of art collector Charles Saatchi. The YBAs were both criticised and praised for their unconventional use of materials and taboo subject matter. The notoriety of the group culminated in the 1997 Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London.
I first came across Ofili when researching the Sensation exhibition for an essay centrerd on controversy and censorship. I researched Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary, a painting depicting an ‘Africanized’ Mary with an exposed breast lacquered with elephant dung. The meticulous craftsmanship of the enamel-like background is an ode to the cult figures of the Byzantine era, and Ofili’s conception criticises the Western tradition of depicting the Virgin. However, disparagers of the work often ignored Ofili’s own religious background when considering Mary’s portrayal. In fact, Ofili was raised, and still claims to be, Roman Catholic.
Although I have particularly spent a lot of time researching The Holy Virgin Mary, my interest in Ofili has spread across his varied and radical career. See what I consider to be some of his personal highlights below:
The Holy Virgin Mary, Chris Ofili, 1996
Royals, Chris Ofili, 1998
No Woman, No Cry, Chris Ofili, 1998
Afrodizzia 2nd Version, Chris Ofili, 1996
The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars, Chris Ofili, 1998