How does one convert a watercolour, created in a matter of moments into a woven fabric, that takes looms, years and incredible patience?
This is the question Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili seeks to answer in his new National Gallery show, Weaving Magic. He gives us a triptych of massive cloths that show a twilit sexual liaison. There is no denying their beauty; the forest is purpler than any purple you've seen, the woman's breasts more sensual. This is storytelling at its very best.
These cloths were created over a series of years from watercolours by the man who won the Turner Prize for his glitter- and elephant dung-smeared canvases back in 1998. Perhaps you know him for inciting NYC's mayor Giuliani's threats to evict the Brooklyn Museum for hanging the artist's pornographic Holy Virgin Mary.
But there's so much more to Chris Ofili than faeces and furore. It's not hard to see why the Trinidad-based Brit was picked up by Charles Saatchi in the 1990s, quickly becoming one of his YBAs, along with Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Sam Taylor-Wood and Rachel Whiteread. His work investigates black identity, often playing with stereotypes in order to challenge them. But, too often, Ofili is labelled simply as a 'black artist'. His highly decorative flat canvases do so much more, marrying sacred and profane, full of sex, humour and lapsed faith. All of humanity's big questions.
The value of this exhibition is not to do with the artist's ethnicity or his chosen medium, but to do with the way in which he uses thee tools in ways for which it has long remained unused. Whether or not that impression is accurate is neither here nor there: we are given a startling combination of modern approach and ancient technique, which enhances the validity of both.
|What||Chris Ofili review: Weaving Magic, National Gallery|
Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
26 Apr 17 – 28 Aug 17, Opening hours: Daily 10am–6pm, Fridays 10am–9pm.
|Website||Click here for more information|