Lithograph in 4 colours on silkscreened glow-in-the-dark background2000
About the work
In this playful portrait of an anonymous black man entitled Regal, Chris Ofili seems to be referring to western historical court portraits and the silhouette portrait practice of sitting in full profile. At the same time Ofili appears to be subverting this tradition by accentuating the man's Afro hairstyle and beard and setting him against a swirling patterned background. Ofili refuses to be categorised as a polemical artist, instead he knowingly plays with people's prejudice and preconceptions, drawing upon stereotypes to create new symbols of Black identity and pride.
Ideas about what it means to be black and British are echoed throughout Ofili's practice and were encapsulated in The Union Black, an adaptation of the Union Jack in the exhibition's colours, specifically designed for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003. The Union Black was inspired by the Afro-American Civil Rights leader Marcus Garvey, whose organisation adopted the red, black and green flag with the aim of uniting all people of African descent. As Ofili explains: 'There is the term Black British that describes Black people born in Britain. So I thought, seeing as though I'm British and I have African ancestry, I would like to try to make a flag for African-British people'.
Chris Ofili was born in Manchester and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1992. In 2005 the Tate acquired Ofili's distinctive installation entitled The Upper Room, displayed in a purpose-built space at Tate Britain until 2007. Depicted in this series of thirteen paintings are rhesus macaque monkeys, each one dazzling in its colour and decoration. Ofili chose to depict these primates for their well-known intelligence and character, for which they are widely venerated in many different religions.
About the artist
Chris Ofili was born in Manchester and studied at Chelsea School of Art from 1988 to 1991. While studying for his MA at the Royal College of Art in 1992, he was awarded the British Council travel scholarship to Zimbabwe. Of Nigerian descent, Ofili found in Zimbabwe an opportunity to reconsider his own identity at home in Britain and how he was perceived abroad. He began to incorporate elephant dung and decorative dots into his canvases, as well as drawing on a variety of influences from Black British culture, including magazines, music and mainstream media. Ofili was included in the influential Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997. He had a major exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1998, and won the Turner Prize the same year. Ofili was the first Black artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2002. His work is held in international collections including the Tate Collection and he was appointed CBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to art. Ofili moved to Trinidad in 2005 and now divides his time between the Caribbean, London and New York.
Chris Ofili (1968 - )
- Lithograph in 4 colours on silkscreened glow-in-the-dark background
- height: 40.50 cm, width: 29.10 cm
- Purchased from Counter Editions, June 2001
- below image: CO / Regal / 105/300
- Counter Editions, London
- GAC number