My art book of the year: Chris Ofili
My choice is the Judith Nesbitt’s book on Chris Ofili. Inside the pages we are taken on a journey that includes exuberant mixed media colour work on canvas and watercolours to fine drawings and photography. In this book we see the vibrancy and potency of Chris Ofili’s work, page after page of exotic colours and subject matter. Drawing inspiration from the Caribbean where he now lives and works, to the more sensational works that included elephant dung made in the early part of his career.
Ofili’s work can be regarded as having a comical perspective on potentially serious issues and is definitely not PC. His paintings fizz with psychedelic ripples across effervescent surfaces. We see Ofili pushing the boundaries of what is seen to be the accepted norm of the embellished canvas, making the images glow on phosphorescent backgrounds. When asked about the act of painting such works he replied “I was trying to get as deeply lost as possible in the process of painting and the painting itself”.
People and places are very much part of Ofili’s repertoire and are referenced directly in the imaginary portraits of Peul women, we see their luxuriant hair, jewels, hennaed lips, dramatic make-up and configured head scarves. In these works Ofili takes his inspiration from the West African photographers of Salla and Mama Casset, Meissa Gaye and Seydou Keita.
Nesbitt’s book gives us an insight into the life and work of an artist born to Nigerian parents and brought up in Manchester. Winning the Turner Prize in 1998 and given support from Charles Saatchi helped Ofili to gain recognition and become one of very few British artists of African/Caribbean descent to breakthrough. Often described as a member of the Young British Artists , you might want to look at the work of the members of this group and consider whose work will stand the test of time.