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>> Interview: Chris Ofili
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It’s about the bittersweet, druggy melancholic feeling…

Yes, and her music is double-edged, you know. She lived in Paris and there is this great song Ne me quitte pas – unbelievable. And when you talk about different cultures: she is singing in French, you can hear that there is a very African undertone and then there is her American accent and the universal accent of loss, of the soul that she has – just so beautiful.

"Blue Damascus (Woman)", 2004 / "Blue Damascus (Man)", 2004
Courtesy: Chris Ofili- Afroco & Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
©Chris Ofili

Let’s end with a nasty question. In your paintings, Adam and Eve are black and paradise seems to be in Africa. Men look like warriors or prophets, women are seductive "goddesses" and nude dancers. These gender roles seem quite conservative to me – far away from utopia. Why do you work with these traditional role models?

I am glad that you’ve seen that, and that you are asking that question. Because I see it too. And I think this is really straight. It is like a straight traditional setting. Maybe that’s inside me. Maybe it is something that I have.

"Blind Leading Blind", 2005
Courtesy: Chris Ofili- Afroco & Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
©Chris Ofili

By birth?

[Laughs] No. I don’t know. I am not putting the responsibility on anyone else. Actually, I’m not even trying to say anything major about gender roles in my painting. A lot of the discussions are with art history – looking at old images, seeing depictions of Adam and Eve, talking to those artists – like William Blake. In my paintings woman take on the traditional role of sexual temptresses.

"Her Gift", 2005
Courtesy: Chris Ofili- Afroco & Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Copyright: Chris Ofili

It seems to me that you re-interpret art history when you load European imagery with contemporary music and African culture: you get something back, put things in the right place, ask questions about racial and sub-cultural identity, but you leave out the gender roles entirely.

What you say is really interesting. I recently started studying traditional Japanese erotic woodblock prints because I think I can make a bit more progress in that area. Because there is something I am aware of there and I really want to explore it a bit further. When you look at those woodblock prints – they’re very sexual, very transgressive. They address every kind of sexual orientation. I don’t really have a good answer to your question, but I see the question is there.

"Silver Nude One", 2005
Courtesy: Chris Ofili- Afroco & Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
©Chris Ofili

Am I the first one to ask this question?

The first one besides me. I am aware of this issue. But I am patient. I don’t force the things I do.

It seems like your work is in a phase of transition.

I think exhibitions are displays of transition. If you’re alive, I hope you are always moving and changing. Looking at things is actually a way to see how you have moved.

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