Visiting the Tate Britain was the highlight of a brief trip to London I took in May 2012. I was really excited to discover the Chris Offili painting No Woman, No Cry was being exhibited. When I was studying art a few years ago Offili’s paintings influenced my style. I’d poured over written accounts of Offili’s technique and studied tiny reproductions in art journals long and hard. I’d never seen one in a gallery before. Large contemporary paintings by international artists rarely make it to Australia.
The moment I saw the Offili painting I had one of those light bulb moments. “So that’s where I went wrong” I thought to myself. For a start the painting was huge and the colours were almost luminous. (my photograph doesn’t really convey the brightness). I stood in front of it for ages taking careful note of how it had been constructed.
I decided Offili had first splashed yellow paint all over the canvas. Fine lines like contour lines on a map were drawn with ink over part of the surface. Small discs of iridescent colour were glued all over the surface. These were connected up in a diamond grid with dots of diluted paint. In places the decorative dots appeared to be seeds or mounds of thick paint. The central figure was painted over the top of this background. Thick black lines defined the shape and were filled in with thin washes of colour.
The painting rested on Offili’s trademark elephant dung plinths. These were covered with thick translucent lacquer and decorated with mapping pins.
Layers of plastic resin or lacquer covered the entire painting. In places this was so thick it became another layer.
Once I’d had my fill of this painting I moved on through the exhibition.
This quiet painting by R.B. Kitaj titled The Orientalist intrigued me. The oil paint was applied in such a way it resembled pastel.
I loved the humour of this sculpture of Stalin.
In another part of the gallery I came across this painting with it’s suggestive title.