Chris Ofili - Contemporary Art London Friday, October 13, 2006 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York; Greene Naftali Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I like the cut-and-paste attitude of hip-hop. You can often hear where one join ends and another begins, which is something I try to make apparent in my work so you can see how things are made” (Chris Ofili quoted in U. Grosenick, ed., Art Now Vol. 2, Cologne, 2005, p. 358).

    Chris Ofili’s unique manipulation and use of media coupled with his multi-layered references to contemporary urban culture and awareness of the history of art have resulted in the creation of an impressive oeuvre that continues to astound and awe the viewing public. Ofili has succeeded in firmly entrenching himself in the annals of Art History throughout his artistic career.

    Ofili has allowed his personality and, by association, his work to be related to a number of personae each based on stereotypical notions of the black male, inevitably generalised [sic] and therefore easily disseminated. His canvases reflect an eagerness to embrace the mythic imaginativeness of black popular culture [African, Afro-British and African-American] while adding to a vocabulary of painterly invention that owes much to color-based abstraction as to any discernible canon of figure-based painting (D. Cameron, Monument to Now: The Dakis Joannou collection, Athens, pp. 348-349). Ofili has explained that the black artist is fated to be seen as the voodoo king, the voodoo queen, the witch doctor, the drug dealer, the Magicien de la terre, the exotic and he has decided to adopt particular traits from these caricatures in order to transgress and destabilize politically correct optimism (L.G. Corrin and G. Worsdale, Chris Ofili, London, p. 1). He expounds on this notion “My Project is not a p c project…It allows you to laugh about issues that are potentially serious” (BBC News, Entertainment, December 1, 1998)

    Rarra Azizah Dilberta, 1994, the present lot, is a wildly energetic painting whose visually charged composition explores and challenges. The surface is collaged with hundreds of serpentine rows and rambling lines of beads of color, which cause the viewer to feel as if there is a specific structure to this arrangement. Translucent pools of resin indiscriminately bleed together with swirling lines of color, creating areas of psychedelic almost hypnotic color fields. Through this mesmerizing miasma of glitter, oil paint and resin, Ofili has also applied, what has come to be his trademark, balls of elephant dung. The painting itself rests atop two balls of dung that have been decorated with colored map pins arranged in shapes that compliment compositional elements present in the canvas. The four dung balls affixed to the surface of the painting have the names of the titles, “Rara” “Azizah” “Dilberta”.

    Ofili has explained that the origins of this work are complex and varied. Outside of their obvious references to the iconography of popular black culture and his incorporation of out of the ordinary materials, Chris Ofili’s paintings are about Beauty. Experimenting and working with materials that lie outside of the confines of traditional oil painting-introducing material such as elephant dung- results in paintings that are not only objects but labors of love. “Within the complexity of his own experience, he has developed a disaffirming vision which has enabled him to distinguish the beauty of that which is objectionable, the sophistication of that which is kitsch and the gravity in that which is laughable…Ofili’s accomplishment is that he continues these deliberations which are manifested within and ever more sophisticated approach to painting and is still unswerving in its respect for the decorative beauty that he holds so dear.” (ibid, p. 10)


Rarra Azizah Dilberta

Acrylic, oil resin, plastic beads, and elephant dung on canvas
75 1/4 x 48 1/4 in. (191.3 x 122.6 cm).

Signed, titled and dated “Chris Ofili ‘Rarra Azizah Dilberta’ 1994” on the stretcher.

£300,000 - 400,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £344,000

Contemporary Art

14 Oct 2006, 7pm