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Chris Ofili's Nocturnal Works Exhibition at Victoria Miro, Venice, Is a Must-See
- 15th Jun 2022
The show introduces a collection of new pieces titled Harvest — Flower Eaters. Two rectangular shapes, rendered in watercolour, charcoal, and gold leaf on paper throughout the last year, serve as windows into a nighttime world in these pieces.
They consist of a female head on the left and a male head on the right. Facing one another with their eyes closed and their heads bent, each of these creatures holds in its mouth the stem of a flower that explodes into kaleidoscopic colour, while showers of gold dots take on a constellation-like look against the darkness.
Although they share a state of revery, their compositions are substantially distinct from one another. Perhaps they refer to the lotus-eaters encountered by Odysseus in Greek mythology, who, after succumbing to the narcotic effect of the lotus fruit and flowers, fell into a blissful, amnesic slumber, as recalled in Tennyson's poem The Lotos-Eaters with the lines:
"Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful heavens."
Although Ofili's Flower Eaters do not depict a particular narrative, they demonstrate the artist's persistent interest in the kind of storytelling found in ancient mythology and in the otherworldly or supernatural forces or energies that appear to foreshadow periods of transition. They touch on many levels of awareness, the unique emotional registers of night and day, as well as the mystique and mythology of Trinidad, where the artist has resided since 2005.
The Flower Eaters and two bigger paintings named Harvester, 2021, which portray a person soaring through the night sky over a flower field, reflect ideas that have preoccupied Ofili for a number of years. A 2008 picture by the artist, named The Healer, depicts the yellow poui tree, known for its intense, short-lived flowering, and a figure, The Healer, whose frenetic eating causes the blossoms to fall from the night sky to the ground.
As with this previous painting, the pieces in Harvest relate to the artist's continued contemplation of the bright, mystical, and possibly ultimately ineffable, as well as his career-long interest in transcendence through visual means.
About Chris Ofili
Born in Manchester, England, in 1968, Chris Ofili presently lives and works in Trinidad. The Chelsea School of Art granted him a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art in 1991, and the Royal College of Art granted him a Master of Arts in Fine Art in 1993. Significant solo exhibitions of the artist's work have been held at international venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2017–2019); National Gallery, London (2017); New Museum, New York (2014), touring to Aspen Art Museum (2015); The Arts Club of Chicago (2010); Tate Britain, London (2010 and 2005); Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover (2006), The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York (2005) and Serpentine Gallery, London (2005). (1998). In 2003, the artist represented the United Kingdom in the 50th Venice Biennale, and in 1998, he was awarded the Turner Prize.