A woman looks at No Woman, No Cry (1998) at the Chris Ofili at Tate Britain retrospective. Photograph: Felix Clay

Think of Chris Ofili and you would be forgiven for imagining the following: elephant manure; the weeping profile of Doreen Lawrence; a black, dung-breasted Virgin Mary that enraged the mayor of New York.

But, when a major, mid-career retrospective opens on Wednesday at Tate Britain in London, visitors will see a new Chris Ofili.

His recent work may, frankly, come as a shock. There is no dung and no glitter. There are no richly-collaged, jangling surfaces. Instead, in the last room in the exhibition, unexpected swathes of colour lash down the canvases: imperial purple dissonant against citrus orange, saffron squealing against sea green.

With the exception of two paintings previously exhibited in New York, none of these eight works has ever been seen in public. They come fresh out of the artist’s studio. The exhibition is the first major survey since 1998 of the often controversial 41-year-old’s work. Almost a third of the 45 paintings on display have never been shown in the UK before.


Charlotte Higgins