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Private view: Chris Ofili

The mid-career retrospective of the paintings of Chris Ofili at Tate Britain is masterful, breathtaking and beautiful

By Ben Lewis   March 2010

Blossom by Chris Ofili (1997)

There’s a certain kind of art that is so pretty, so beautifully patterned, such fun to look at that any sensible art critic feels duty bound to avert his gaze. The paintings of Chris Ofili, currently displayed in a mindblowing mid-career retrospective at Tate Britain, are an example. In most of his paintings, thousands of droplets of paint trace curving patterns across his canvases. Underneath them the rich and saturated colours of Gauguin’s Tahitian palette mingle with the arabesques of Matisse’s lines (only more sensuously, as if—sorry for racial stereotyping—Matisse had been black). On top…

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