Chris Ofili is a Turner Prize winning British painter best known for artworks referencing aspects of his Nigerian heritage, particularly his incorporation of elephant dung. He was one of the Young British Artists, and is now based in Trinidad.
Ofilli was born in Manchester and had a Catholic school education. Ofili completed a foundation course in art at Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester and studied in London, at the Chelsea School of Art from 1988 to 1991 and at the Royal College of Art from 1991 to 1993.
Ofili was established through exhibitions by Charles Saatchi at his gallery in north London and the travelling exhibition Sensation (1997) becoming recognised as one of the few British artists of African/Caribbean descent to break through as a member of the Young British Artists group. Ofili has also had numerous solo shows since the early 1990s including the Serpentine Gallery. In 1998, Ofili won the Turner Prize, and in 2003 he was selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale of that year, where his work for the British Pavilion was done in collaboration with the architect David Adjaye.
In 1992 he won a scholarship which allowed him to travel to Zimbabwe. Ofili, who is of Nigerian descent, studied cave paintings there, which had some effect on his style. Though Ofili's detractors often state that he "splatters" elephant dung on his pictures, this is inaccurate: he sometimes applies it directly to the canvas in the form of dried spherical lumps, and sometimes, in the same form, uses it as varnished foot-like supports on which the paintings stand.
Ofili's painting also reference blaxploitation films and gangsta rap, seeking to question racial and sexual stereotypes in a humorous way. His work is often built up in layers of paint, resin, glitter, dung (mainly elephant) and other materials to create a collage.
Ofili has been founder and prime mover behind the short-lived Freeness Project. This involved the coming together of artists, producers and musicians of minority ethnic groups (Asian and African) in an attempt to expose the music that may be unheard in other spaces. Freeness allowed the creativity of unsigned contemporary British ethnic minority artists to be heard. The result of months of tours to 10 cities in the UK resulted in Freeness Volume 1 - a compilation of works that were shown during the tour.
Ofili has been living and working in Trinidad since and currently resides in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.