0: England: London: Monkey Magic 01/ 08/ 2002

Chris Ofili


At last I go to an exhibition by Chris Ofili, and this time the wait was well worth it. He is best known  for the use of elephant dung which is added in lumps onto the canvas or as supports for the canvas to lean on and for his pornographic images often used in controversial religious themes. His signature painting technique is a combination of layered pattern and fine dots that cover parts of the surface allowing multiple layers underneath to seep through.


Afronivana: Chris Ofili


I see the sign, Victoria Miro , and realise this must be it. Outside it looked little more than a warehouse, while inside the room has transformed itself into a large bright open space, a perfect setting for a series of art works called, 'Freedom for a day.' Each canvas is brightly illustrated in red and black, radiating the colours of an African flag, celebrating freedom. The paintings, 'Afronivana' and Triple Beam Dreamer,' celebrate the beauty of an exotic woman lying in a bed of luscious fruit, flowers and foliage, accentuating her sexual allure. 'Afromantics' and 'Afro Love and Unity', are similar in colour radiating red and green colour from a star with lush foliage surrounding a hip sexy Africancouple, which look asif they could be dancing seventies retro or funk. The paintings become part of a one off, spoken word event, 'Freedom', which tells stories, poems and pros, illustrating multiple realities exploring freedom.


Chris Ofili's Upper Room


The Upper Room.

 Upstairs the atmosphere couldn't be more different as you follow a darkened our corridor of walnut wood, where we are taken up stairs to, 'The Upper Room'. There are bleeps of beamed light that highlight your way across the blackened out corridor, directing you towards a dark wooden room that appears like a holy chapel. The sinister setting makes way for large paintings of the 'Rhesus Macaque' (Monkey) As thirteen paintings rest up against the wall, identified by name in Spanish on the elephant dung supports. Almost all the same size and shape and position and yet differ greatly in contrasting electric colours each creating their own individuality. Every painting is lined up the same distance apart, placed directly opposite another. As you enter the room it feels as if you have interrupted on the Last Supper with Jesus.



Mono Amarillo : Chris Ofili 


92% of our DNA is shared with the Rhesus monkey and the similarities continue with many physical attributes. Psychologically their social behaviour are also like ourselves, yet it is to their sacrifice that the human race has survived as these monkeys were used for vaccine testing for many illnesses. In this instance then we can assume that this asks many ethical questions that can relate to how we have persecuted Jesus and once again we close our eyes on this monkey, of whom we have so much to learn.


Mono Blanco: Chris Ofili


Mono Gris: Chris Ofili


Mono Verde : Chris Ofili 




Photo credit: Victoria Miro Gallery  & David Zwirner