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  • Provenance

    Victoria Miro, London
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, John Moore's Liverpool Exhibition 20, 7 November 1997 - 15 February 1998
    Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Siste NYTT, 15 August – 13 September 1998
    Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Museum Z, 20 April – 2 September 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    “If you listen to something, it goes into the part of your brain that deals with sight. And I’m trying to make paintings that make you hear them, rather than see them. So actually, you’re looking at music. So it will teach your eyes to hear, and your ears to see.” CHRIS OFILI

    Artist Chris Ofili represents a hybrid identity made possible by a post-colonial, post-modern global society. Similar to contemporaries like Yinka Shonibare and Wangechi Mutu, Ofili embraces his multi-faceted identity through his work, incorporating African, British, and nomadic global citizen identifiers. Ofili confronts pre-determined indicators of cultural heritage and attempts to redefine their assumed meaning through artistic interpretation. As part of his artistic process he cuts and splices disparate imagery gleaned from 'traditional' African culture, religious iconography, pop culture (pornography, film, television) and music (jazz, hip-hop). Ofili states: “Part of my approach as an artist is to go with the flow: You begin something, and then, if you get stuck, you pull in information and increase momentum. The process of culture is similar—for instance, what you find in hip-hop. I like its cut-and-paste attitude.” (Ofili to Donna DeSalvo, 'My Pop: Chris Ofili', Artforum, October, 2004, p. 58).

    In the present lot, The Saga Continues… The Journey from Hell (1997) the artist’s mark is distinct, characterized by a highly decorative style with culturally eclectic influences. The work is visually flattened, yet dense with layers of paint and collaged cutouts from print matter; all sealed under layers of resin. Bright colors, undulating forms, and rhythmic dots breathe life into this canvas’s electric flesh. The sheen of the resin and transparency inherent in the veiled layers reiterate the imaginative source while the canvas rest upon two dung “feet” which elevates the image just slightly off the floor transforming the painting into an object. Both the painted subject and the physical canvas command presence offering visual and psychological weight. “With Chris Ofili’s work—patterns and nodes, layers of transparent resin and, of course, hip-hop—one is confronted with a different value system: Art is uniquely wedded to the mythology that he constructs around the dialogical world of what some call ‘ghetto fabulous’ reality.” (DJ Spooky in Paul D. Miller, 'Deep Shit: An Interview with Chris Ofili', Parkett, no. 58, May 2000, p. 64)

    The strong central figure in The Saga Continues… The Journey from Hell carries gravitas and sparks an immediate visual comparison to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Big Joy (1984) an artist to whom Ofili is frequently compared to in concept and style. Ofili, like Basquiat, explores the artistic right to truthfully redefine the relationships of black identity and culture. Ofili often disarms with humor in order to cut to the core of his message: beauty out of ugliness. He has said, "My project is not a p.c. project I'm trying to make things you can laugh at. It allows you to laugh about issues that are potentially serious." (Chris Ofili interviewed by Kodwo Eshun in Plug into Ofili Chris Ofili ed. L Corrin et. al., London, 1998, p. 13)

    The Saga Continues… The Journey from Hell depicts Captain Shit, a recurring figure in Ofili’s oeuvre. The fantastic character with his emblazoned suit and afro is reminiscent of 1970s Blaxploitation protagonists and comic book super heroes, he triumphantly and psychedelically emerges from the Earth’s strata. His iconic character first appeared in Double Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (1997) and later in The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (1998) who stands like a funk master musician above adoring hands. The Captain of The Saga Continues… The Journey from Hell is perhaps the archetypal Savior King, an emblem of heroism.

    There is also music in his work—Ofili says he is “trying to find something that’s… almost like… listening… looking. If you listen to something, it goes into the part of your brain that deals with sight. And I’m trying to make paintings that make you hear them, rather than see them. So actually, you’re looking at music. So it will teach your eyes to hear, and your ears to see.” (Ofili in Miller, 'Deep Shit: An Interview with Chris Ofili', 166) The Saga Continues… The Journey from Hell has its own theme song; the Captain rises from the flames with his message reverberating through the pink sky. This cacophony finds a balance between beauty and ugliness. The Saga Continues… The Journey From Hell is considered among the best of Ofili’s twenty-odd year career and is an exquisite example of his ability to provide cross-culturally accessible works that utilize elements indicative of his unique identity. For Ofili, “…it’s wide open… to bring anything and everything to it… The elements just exist as they are, as individual things. But at the same time, once they are put in that new context, they become something else.” (Ofili in Miller, 'Deep Shit: An Interview with Chris Ofili', 166)

24

The Saga Continues...The Journey from Hell

1997
mixed media on canvas
243.8 x 182.8 cm. (95 7/8 x 71 7/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'Chris Ofili 1997' on the central stretcher bar. Further initialled on the stretcher.

Estimate
£600,000 - 800,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm