Former YBA, Chris Ofili trades shock value for production values with a major new handwoven tapestry work, combining magic and myth, for the Sunley Room in the National Gallery.
There can be few more daunting propositions in art than making contemporary work to sit alongside the masterpieces in the National Gallery. And while Chris Ofili may have plenty to say about this imposing context, such a brief has the potential to expose all manner of technical shortcomings.
Ofili does not draft like Poussin. He does not colour to rival Titian. And his painting fails to observe realism or capture drama like, say, Caravaggio. And, given how the Turner Prize-winner made his name, one wonders if the bugs that nest in dried elephant dung might even pose a risk to all those august neighbouring works.
The solution to these problems? In this case it has been to make a traditional tapestry. Weaving Magic is a handwoven piece, commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company and realised by the contemporary craft workers at Dovecot Tapestry Studio.
But just as a conceptual tapestry should do, Ofili’s piece pulls in a myriad of thematic strands from the permanent collection and reflects the artist’s interest in classical mythology. And so visitors can expect to find elements of narrative, magic and colour from Trinidad, in the heart of London, and in dialogue with art history.