Inside Chris Ofili’s Weaving Magic At The National Gallery
Having never been to a medieval banquet, I’ve little in the way of evidence to substantiate the claim I’m about to make, but, walking into Chris Ofili’s latest show at The National, it felt a bit like stepping into some sort of ancient feasting hall. Sadly, no long tables sagging with the weight of wild boar and sturgeon, rather it was the dark, atmospheric lighting, the imposing frieze of exotic dancers that stretched from floor to ceiling on every wall and, of course, the near 3 metre tall desert island tapestry that forms the pièce de résistance of this show. Call it medieval with a tropical twist.
From a distance, you could be mistaken for thinking the central work is a painting. Only when you get in nice and close, do the subtle pigment changes reveal themselves in the form of carefully chosen coloured threads, with each individual pixel having been consciously crafted, like cross stitch. The skill, precision and sheer man-hours that went in to producing Ofili’s vision is clear to anyone who stands in front of this work, and that’s even before you learn that it’s the result of five people working for three years. Not solidly I’d imagine, but given their task of translating watercolour brushstrokes, which had taken Ofili only moments to make, into woven a tapestry over the course of months and years, the work brings a very literal meaning to the shows title, ‘Weaving Magic’.
Accompanying the work in the main room, there’s a short film featuring Ofili speaking about the work in relation to his home in Trinidad, and a detailed insight into the creative process of the tapestry next door. Sandwiched between these two rooms are a selection of Ofili’s watercolours and drawings, including an unexpected appearance from footballer Mario Balotelli, a complex character to say the least, whose dual identity as a black Italian has made him a source of interest for Ofili. If you’re looking to dip your toes into some art anytime soon, this is a good bet. Three rooms, half an hour, no excuses.
‘Weaving Magic’ is on at The National Gallery from 26th April to 28 August 2017, free admission