Chris Ofili Facts

Chris Ofili is a British painter. His art has been called punk art, and he known for using elephant dung in his work.

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Facts About Chris Ofili

  • Chris Ofili was born in Manchester in 1968.
  • His parents were both born in Nigeria. They worded in the McVities biscuit factory. His feather returned to Nigeria when Chris Ofili was eleven years old.
  • He attended Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyne to study art, and then he studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London.
  • He moved to Trinidad in 2005, and he owns a studio in Port of Sapin, surrounded by tropical forest.
  • He also has studios in London and Brooklyn.
  • From 2002 to 2019, Chris Ofili was married to Roba El-Essaway, a former member of the Attica Blues (a trip-hop band).
  • In 1992, he travelled to Zambabwe. He was inspired by some of the cave paintings he studied there. Although he didn’t see any elephants, he did collect some elephant dung to use in his paintings.
  • Many of his early exhibitions were put on by Charles Saatchi, and, although he didn’t attend Goldsmiths, he was thought of as a member of the Young British Artists group.
  • From 1995 to 2005, Chris Ofili produced a series of 9.5″ x 6.5″ watercolour paintings, mostly featuringthe heads of men and women.
  • He was awarded the CBE in 2017 for services to art.
  • Chris Ofili’s works has been exhibited in cities all over the world, including New York, London, Venice, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Hanover, and Chicago.
  • His work The Holy Virgin Mary features a black Virgin Mary (a Black Madonna), surrounded by cherubim made from graphic images and elephant dung. It was displayed at the Broklyn Museum of Art and was described by New York’s then-mayor Rudy Giuliani as being a ‘horrible and disgusting project’.
  • In 2010, his painting called Orgena, featuring a portrait of a black woman, was sold for £1,800,000. The Holy Virgin Mary was sold for £2,900,000.
  • His 2006 work called Iscariot Blues features two figures playing musical nad a third being hanged. The work expresses anger at the ‘stop and search’ policy adopted by the British police.
  • Chris Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998. He was the first black artist to receive the award.
  • In No Woman No Cry, Chris Ofili’s portrait of a black woman crying, the tears are made up of collaged images of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager murdered in London in a racially-motivated attack in 1993.
  • He is good friends with the artist Peter Doig. They met at the Chelsea School of Art.
  • He is a big fan of Marvel comics, hip-hop music, and jazz music.
  • The elephant dung he uses in his work is collected from London Zoo.
  • One of his closest friends is the architect David Adjaye.
  • He supports Manchester United.
  • He has spoken of his admiration for the track Prema by alice Coltrane on her 1978 Transfiguration album.

More Information About Chris Ofili

What is Chris Ofili inspired by?

Chris Ofili’s early work was influenced by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Georg Baselitz and Philip Guston.

His work is inspired by a wide range of sources, including African culture, Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation movies, pop culture, religion, and modernist painting.

I was listening to a lot of hip hop, music like Public Enemy that was about raising consciousness, and I realised I could feed that directly into my work, using images in a way that was a bit like sampling – taking images from diverse places, exploring the contradictions without trying to hide the seams.

Chris Ofili

What techniques does Chris Ofili use to make his work?

Chris Ofili uses a variety of techniques and methods to produce his works.

Over the years, his paintings have incorporated resin, beads, oil paint, glitter, lumps of elephant dung, and cut-outs from graphic magazines. Some of his work is built up in layers, and some of his recent work features tapestry.

The studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never-ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion.

Chris Ofili

Why does Chris Ofili use elephant dung?

There are several reasons why Chris Ofili uses elephant dung in his work. Initially, it was to ‘explore the challenge of making dung coexist with the beauty of an art object’, bringing ‘beauty and decorativeness together with the ugliness’.

Art critics have suggested that the dung was incorporated to challenge his white audience. There is a tradition of using dung in traditional African art, and the elephant is considered to be a sacred symbol of power.

Chris Ofili usually incorporates spherical lumps of dung in his work, either by gluing them onto the painting, or by varnishing them and using them as stands for his work.

Some of his paintings have been named after the performing elephants of Cirucs Krone in Berlin, for example Lala, Mala and Rara.