Victoria Miro Venice

Chris Ofili: Poolside Magic
10 May – 8 July 2017

Victoria Miro Venice

Victoria Miro’s Venice Gallery is a small space, and Chris Ofili as the inaugural exhibition is an easy win. Ofili’s appear to be drawings with motifs and figurations that are repeated and interchanges from one to another then built up with quite densely applied watercolour with some looser washes and dots applied over again. The colour fizzes at the edges, and pushes the space around, back and forward. I’m reliably informed that the main character is based on the footballer Mario Balotelli and theres a Titian odalisque theme being explored here, with a black Venus drinking cocktails on the poolside, served by Mario. For me, there are also Chagall riffs in the aerial forms that reinforce the romantic theme in the painting. There’s darkness there as well, faces lurk underwater and it’s hard to tell if they’re swimming or dead. They’re decadent, mystical loving and sexy all at the same time. A real pleasure to look at. The dark frames are a bit overbearing for my liking, and fight with the space a bit – especially with the portcullis gate in the space that steps down to the water. A good show of some easily collectable works.