UK artist Ofili ditches elephant dung in new show

Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:34am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - He is best known for working with elephant dung, but British artist Chris Ofili has taken a more painterly turn since his move from London to Trinidad five years ago.

A mid-career retrospective at Tate Britain in London covers the first two decades of the 41-year-old, Turner Prize-winning artist's work, and one third of the 45 or so paintings on display have not been seen in Britain before.

The earliest paintings date from 1993, a year after he travelled to Zimbabwe where he first thought of applying elephant dung to the canvas.

"He was struck at this disconnect between what he was painting and what he was seeing all around him," said Judith Nesbitt, chief curator of Tate Britain.

So the first room of the seven-room show, which opens on January 27 until May 16, is dominated by titles such as "Shithead," "Painting with Shit on it" and "Spaceshit."

Also instrumental to his artistic style were ancient cave paintings he saw on the same trip to Zimbabwe which helped to inspire his trademark dot technique.

Dung and dots dominate the art in the first part of the exhibition, although Ofili also uses glitter, resin and magazine cut-outs to decorate his works.

Included in the show is "The Holy Virgin Mary," executed in 1996, which portrays a black Madonna figure with an exposed breast made of elephant dung and cutouts from pornographic magazines decorating the surrounding canvas.   Continued...