The Use of Absurd Materials to Present Art, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Understanding Chris Ofili’s Approach to his Artworks

Introduction

What makes an art work, an art work? Relatively, it has been usually considered that art is a form of expression that humans use to define their understanding of particular matters, issues and specific conditions in life. With the many different forms of art, it could be analyzed how artists try to find a way to define their work in the most convenient and relative manner that their art would reflect themselves as artists and as human individuals as well. Some artists remain with the conventional limits of presentation. Trying to concentrate on how they are presenting themselves to the public as reputable artists, they tend to create art that would surely be appreciated and applauded by the people.

However, there are artists who value self expression more than they value public acceptance and appreciation. Not afraid to be rejected, these artists simply depend on the real meaning of art which is self-expression. Chris Ofili is one of the artists who choose to go the way they want to without having the need to think of what others have to say or even how they are to react to the matter. They simply want to create a particular piece that would define them , their artistic ways and create a reputation that may not be acceptable to many but is relatively appealing for themselves.

One of the most controversial works of Chris Ofili is that of the Holy Virgin Mary which he represented with the use of cut-out female genetalia, glitters, and elephant dung. This particular presentation has raised the brows of many critiques and has specifically created a course of inquiry that questioned Ofili’s reputation as a world-renowned artist. The exhibition in New York that included the said work of Ofili created so much questions raised as to whether or not such artistic expressions should indeed be considered as a form of art or a direct insult. In the discussion that follows, seeing the side of Ofili as he used different materials for the said artwork shall be given attention to.

Uncanny Approach to Art

Should a piece of work be considered art if it does not follow the description of beauty? One look at the Holy Virgin Mary created by Ofili, it could be agreed upon that beauty is not a word that could likely describe it. Considered that the facial presentation of the Virgin Mary is rather absurd and out of contour. This includes her gown and the surrounding cherubs that was supposed to present her holiness. Naturally, it is evident that the work is not expected to impress nor was it expected by Ofili to create an applaud-worthy reaction from the audience.

What then is the reason of Ofili in creating this art? In answering this inquiry, it is important to consider the background of Ofili as an artist himself. Coming from a Nigerian descent, Ofili was born and raised in Britain where a more sophisticated foundation for his artistic desires has been established. Attending well known schools and learning specifically distinctive artistic approaches to expressing himself, Ofili developed a keen eye for observation that made it easier for him to appreciate every art that is in each particular matter he notices in the environment around him. Exploration is one particular matter that Ofili founded his art upon. He was noted for creating artworks that are out of the ordinary. Specifically,  Ofili’s interest in the process of making an ordinary matter an extraordinary material through art made it easier for him to refine the ways by which he learned how to present art. Creativity is the characteristic that his schools welcomed. In the aspect of defining themselves as artists, Ofili followed the will of his heart and not the desire to sell as some artists are particularly grounded upon.

Being a young artist, it could be said that he has a taste of his own, a style of his own and an audience of his own who would be able to understand and appreciate his works. Take note that the generation he belongs to is the generation of the uncanny approach. The age of liberalism basically embraces his generation and this has probably created a sense of freedom in him making him braver in doing away from the traditional ways of producing art. Accompanying this culture is the possible influence he got from visiting Zimbabwe in 1992. The appreciation of Ofili towards the elephant dung as a primary material in most his works dives deeper than the idea of creating an absurd presentation of the elemental factors he uses as focal points of his works.

More than just waste, Ofili tries to create a notion among his audiences that art need not be of the ordinary, following the limitations set by the critiques of the field. Instead, it should be an expression that comes from the heart. It does not matter what material is used to create it, what matters is the impact it makes on the minds of those who would see it. Racially inclined to celebrating his own color, most of the human subjects in his works often appear to be black. Accompanied and applied alongside with the elephant dung to represent the color of the skin or highlight specific elements of the work, Ofili wants to point out the contrast on how humans are connected to nature and so is nature connected to humans. Relatively, the interpretation of the utilization of the elephant dung grows deeper than simply making a statement of being different.

Unconventional Materials

Artists are usually known to pick the right genre of art that they would like to work on and the right materials they would like to use to define their works with. Considerably, the materials they choose have a reflective impact on who they really are and how they want their works to look like. As for Ofili, he hails the utilization of elephant dung due to several reasons. One is the fact that it is easy to work with. Given that the elephant dung is purely fiber, it is almost as soft as clay that can be formed into different shapes as desired. Notably, this particular dung is not as smelly as it looks, in fact, besides the idea of being organic; this tool serves as a great source of inspiration for finger-creation. Ofili is noted for presenting and using the said material in many forms. One is by splattering it, another is by directly applying it thoroughly through the art’s plate.

The natural color of the elephant dung often reflects the natural color of the black-skinned communities in Nigeria and other parts of the world that hails the society of black individuals. Relatively, this specific characteristic of the elephant dung makes it a considerable tool that Ofili intends to use to be able to establish natural color and natural element into his work. The creation of the Holy Virgin Mary created with the accompaniment of the utilization of the elephant dung as one of the primary materials for its presentation is more of a representation of natural beauty than that of an insult that other onlookers interpret it with.

In a way, it could be realized that it is his absurd utilization of material and presentation of his elements that ought to make his artworks more symbolical and meaningful. The materials etched into the artworks ought to raise a sense of thinking over what is unconventional yet is evidently true in the society today. The elephant dung found in most of Ofili’s work is supposed to create a notable indication of his desire to be unique, relatively reflective of his emotions and opinions about particular matters while creating an art that does not necessary need to be appreciated but instead understood by his audience.

Conclusion

It is indeed a bold move for anyone to go against the traditional manners of completing particular tasks. This particular boldness made Ofili the well-renowned young artist that he is today. Although criticized for his utilization of uncanny materials and absurd presentation of elements in his work, Ofili never stopped trying to define his own work with uniqueness and originality. No, not all of his art could be considered beautiful. Then again, each of his works have their own meanings that are supposed to be given particular recognition to than being prejudged to be insulting nor be instituted as art-trash. Relatively, it is with the characteristics of artists like Ofili that humans become aware of the real meaning behind absurd presentations that often mirror life’s reality as a whole. With this in mind, it could be agreed upon that Chris Ofili is indeed an artist worthy of being celebrated not only by his own generation but all the other art-enthusiast of all time as well.

References:

Chris Ofili’s Biography. http://www.artnet.com/artists/chris-ofili/. (Retrieved on April 30, 2012).

New York Observer. Chris Ofili’s First Dung Paintings Found, In ‘Urgent Need of Conservation’. http://www.observer.com/2011/09/chris-ofilis-first-dung-paintings-found-in-urgent-need-of-conservation/. (Retrieved on April 30, 2012).

BBC News. Elephant dung artist scoops award. (1998). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/226000.stm. (Retrieved on April 30, 2012).

Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary returns to London, Gareth Harris, The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2010. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/7093216/Chris-Ofilis-The-Holy-Virgin-Mary-returns-to-London.html. (Retrieved on April 30, 2012).

Kennick, William ed, and W. E. Kennick. (1979). Art and philosophy : readings in aesthetics. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Wollheim, Richard. (1980). Art and its objects. p.1, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press.

Levinson, Jerrold. (2003). The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics. Oxford university Press.

Dutton, Denis.(2003). ‘Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology’ in “The Oxford Handbook for Aesthetics”. Oxford University Press.

Steve Mithen. (1999). The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science.

Graham, Gordon (2005). Philosophy of the arts: an introduction to aesthetics. Taylor & Francis.

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