Chris Ofili created a new suite of paintings and transformed the inside of the British Pavilion with an ambitious installation in collaboration with the architect David Adjaye.
Ofili came to prominence in the early 1990s with richly orchestrated paintings that upped the ante on a whole range of subjects: from decoration and excess to cultural politics and black stereotyping. He brings attention to painting’s continuing ability to deepen and enrich, extending its range through a brilliant and eclectic mix of materials: he won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1998 with colourful works made of dried elephant dung and glitter.
Since 2000, Ofili had been working on his series of red, black and green paintings, such as Afro Love and Envy and Afro Jezebel (both 2002-2003), as these are the colours of the pan-African union flag. These colours saturated not only the paintings and Adjaye’s immersive installation within the Pavilion, but a red, black and green version of the Union Jack, entitled Union Black (2003), was also hung outside the building and adorned the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
Adjaye’s installation made the Pavilion almost unrecognisable. For the exhibition, entitled Within Reach, the walls were painted, carpets were laid and a glass sculpture, Afro Kaleidoscope, covered the skylight of the main gallery space, tinting the Venetian light that shone through.
“Usually an oasis of cool understatement, for once those lovely rooms [of the British Pavilion] pulsated with hot colour and blissfully sensual imagery,” said art critic Richard Dorment.