Exploring the Multidimensional Creativity of Chris Ofili at Victoria Miro

Exploring Chris Ofili’s Artistic Vision: An Invitation to Dialogue Through Cryptic Beauty, Rather than Conveyed Messages

Victoria Miro Gallery has recently unveiled an exciting new exhibition from British artist Chris Ofili entitled Seven Deadly Sins. Upon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted by a series of ten A4 etchings showcasing ethereal women and plants bursting with spores, set against unique rose-pink, grey, and white Suminagashi prints on Japanese marbled paper. The series, entitled Pink Daydreams of a Faun, forms an accompanying exhibition that is only nominally separated from the main body of work on view.

Pink Daydreams of a Faun draws inspiration from the Symbolist poem L’après-midi d’un faune by late 19th century French writer Stephane Mellarmé. The series shares a similar aesthetic and some thematic similarities with the paintings that follow, serving as a fitting introduction to Ofili’s new body of work.

As we move deeper into the exhibition, we are met with a series of large-scale paintings that explore the concept of the seven deadly sins in a uniquely idiosyncratic way. Ofili’s distinctive style is unmistakable in every colorful brushstroke, with his trademark use of glitter, dots, and bold patterns creating a truly mesmerizing effect. The paintings often feature fantastical and surreal imagery, with recurring symbols emerging throughout the body of work, such as serpents, mushrooms, and birds.

The Seven Deadly Sins series contains a wealth of fascinating and thought-provoking paintings that delve deeply into the complexities of sin, and two particularly striking examples are Greed and Sloth.

Greed is a painting that contains a complex web of references to financial corruption and indulgence. The painting features a snake that appears to feed on gold-encrusted fruit, symbolizing the inherent dangers of excess wealth and greed. The snake, often associated with deception and temptation in traditional Judeo-Christian iconography, serves as a powerful reminder of the corrupting influence of money and the constant temptation to indulge in excess.

In contrast, the painting Sloth features a tranquil and dream-like landscape of a sleepy forest, inviting the viewer to slow down and embrace a more relaxed and unhurried pace of life. The painting’s ethereal beauty seems to suggest that there is a certain value in taking one’s time and savoring the world around us, rather than constantly rushing towards some elusive endpoint.

These two paintings are just a small sample of the rich and complex works that make up Ofili’s Seven Deadly Sins series. Each painting in the series offers a unique perspective on the topic of sin and its various manifestations, inviting viewers to engage with deep and pressing questions about human nature and the world we inhabit.

Ofili’s Seven Deadly Sins is an exhibition that rewards close attention and contemplation. Each painting has its own unique narrative and symbolism, inviting the viewer to engage with the work on a deeper level and draw their own conclusions. Indeed, Ofili’s paintings are beautiful yet cryptic, inviting conversation and interpretation rather than driving home any particular message.

Overall, Seven Deadly Sins is a masterful exhibition from a truly visionary artist. With a unique style and thought-provoking content, Ofili’s latest work is sure to captivate audiences and cement his position as one of the most exciting artists of our time.

As we move deeper into the exhibition, we are met with a series of large-scale paintings that explore the concept of the seven deadly sins in a uniquely idiosyncratic way. The lower gallery features four two-by-three-meter oil paint and charcoal paradise scenes that dominate the walls of the exhibition. These works continue the psychedelic dream already established by the etchings in the previous room, immersing viewers in a surreal world of vibrant colors and bold patterns.

One of the standout pieces in the exhibition is titled The Swing, which depicts a cloven-hooved faun lounging in a paradisiacal realm. The painting is saturated with intricate details, such as the intricate patterns on the faun’s robe and the swirling foliage that surrounds him. The use of bold colors and highly stylized forms creates a sense of otherworldliness that draws the viewer in and encourages them to explore the painting in more detail.

Another striking painting in the exhibition is The Great Beauty, which foregrounds a wild landscape of plants and animals. The painting is breathtaking in its scope, with a dizzying array of colors and patterns creating a sense of dense, lush vegetation. The use of charcoal and oil paint creates a sense of depth and texture, giving the painting a tactile quality that encourages the viewer to engage with it on a physical level.

In The Fountain, a chalice spews forth dancing figures, adding an element of whimsy and playfulness to the exhibition. The painting is highly imaginative, featuring a variety of strange and fantastical creatures that dance and cavort around the central fountain. The use of glitter and other materials adds a sense of sparkle and glamour to the painting, creating a sense of joy and wonder for the viewer.

Finally, The Crowning shows the horned head of a faun being decorated with a cactus-like crown. The painting is highly stylized, with bold lines and bright colors creating a sense of whimsy and playfulness. The use of charcoal and oil paint creates a sense of depth and texture, while the intricate details of the crown add a sense of drama and intrigue to the painting.

Overall, Seven Deadly Sins is a masterful exhibition that showcases the incredible talent and imagination of Chris Ofili. His use of bright colors, bold patterns, and imaginative forms create a sense of wonder and delight for the viewer, inviting them into a surreal world of his own creation. Through his artwork, Ofili invites conversation and interpretation, encouraging viewers to engage with his work on a deeper level and to draw their own conclusions about the meaning and significance of his art.

The upper gallery of the exhibit features several works by Ofili that are similar in size to those in the lower gallery. These works are arranged in a way that creates a sense of climax, with each piece building towards a stunning crescendo.

Of particular note is The Fall from Grace, a visually powerful painting that also happens to be the most overtly biblical work in the exhibition. At the top of the canvas, a round ochre sun featuring multicolored dots radiating outwards shines on abstract horned figures that appear to be free-falling from the light. The painting is a striking interpretation of the biblical story of the fall of man, with Ofili’s unique style and technique capturing both the drama and emotional complexity of the subject matter.

The overall effect of the upper gallery, including The Fall from Grace, is one of awe-inspiring beauty, with each painting serving to build upon the last. Through his use of color, form, and composition, Ofili has crafted a truly unforgettable experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who see it.

In conclusion, the upper gallery of the exhibit features several works by Ofili that are the same size as those in the lower gallery, culminating in a visually stunning and emotionally powerful work titled The Fall from Grace. With its biblical subject matter and striking use of color and form, this painting represents the pinnacle of Ofili’s artistic achievement and serves as a testament to his skill as a painter and storyteller.

The Seven Deadly Sins series, comprising paintings completed by Ofili over a period of seven years from 2017 to 2023, is immediately striking for its scale and use of color. Ofili uses the color wheel to great effect, pitting oranges against blues and pinks against greens, creating a dramatic range of hues that capture the viewer’s attention.

The paintings themselves employ a loose pointillism technique that feels almost microbial, as if the works depict scenes seen under a microscope. There is a powerful sense of time and origin, conjuring images of the primordial soup and the birth of life itself. Despite the presence of narrative elements in each of the paintings, there is an overall ambiguity to the Seven Deadly Sins series. No particular sin is attributed to any one painting, nor is there any clear plotline that unfolds through their ordering.

Instead, the paintings seem to offer abstract musings, a verdant mess of mythological creatures and tropical scenes that hint at deeper meanings and mysteries. Ultimately, it is the sheer beauty and dynamic energy of Ofili’s work that captures the imagination, drawing us in and challenging us to see beyond the surface to the underlying emotional and spiritual currents that flow beneath its colorful and vibrant exterior.

In conclusion, the Seven Deadly Sins series is a masterpiece of contemporary painting, showcasing Ofili’s extraordinary talent and vision. From its striking use of color to its immersive and mysterious narrative, each painting is a testament to the boundless potential of human creativity and the transformative power of art.

It’s evident that Ofili intends his Seven Deadly Sins series to be a starting point for a broader conversation about sin and its many manifestations. This is why he has provided ample supporting material to help contextualize and enrich the viewing experience for visitors.

In addition to the exhibition text produced by the gallery, the show features a Mallarmé poem and two books, both of which are essential to understanding the meaning and significance of the art on display. The first book, Chris Ofili: Pink Daydreams of a Faun, pairs prints of the artist’s etchings with an insightful essay by Minna Moore Ede that explores the complex themes and motifs central to Ofili’s work.

The second book, which collects the contributions of seven writers including Hilton Als, Marlon James, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, offers a diverse range of reflections on sin and its implications in the contemporary world. Together, these books provide a rich tapestry of perspectives and insights that help to deepen and enrich our understanding of Ofili’s art and the broader issues it addresses.

Overall, it’s clear that Ofili wants his work to spark a wider dialogue about sin and its many interpretations. Through his use of color, form, and symbolism, he invites us to explore the complexities and contradictions of the human experience, encouraging us to reflect on our own relationship to sin and the ways in which it shapes our lives and the world around us.

Hilton Als appears to be addressing the ambiguity of the Seven Deadly Sins exhibition directly when he writes that our sins are often as unclear as our nicer motivations, jumbled together like a ball of spores. This sentiment is an accurate read of Ofili’s paintings, which leave sin undefined, raising questions rather than providing clear answers.

Indeed, the boundary between pleasure and sin is a fuzzy one, something that dances like microbes under a glass. Ofili’s paintings capture this ambiguity perfectly, creating a complex and layered exploration of sin and its many shades. Each painting offers a unique perspective on the topic, raising questions rather than providing easy answers and inviting viewers to engage in their own reflections on the role that sin plays in their lives and the world around them.

Overall, the Seven Deadly Sins exhibition is a thought-provoking and immersive exploration of a complex and multifaceted topic. Through his brilliant use of color, form, and symbolism, Ofili has created a series of paintings that invites viewers to engage with the mystery and ambiguity of sin, challenging us to think deeply about our own relationship to this fundamental and timeless topic.