Chris Ofili in Requiem

by Alain Chivilò

 

Tate Britain, London, presents a major new site-specific installation by Chris Ofili. The conception of the work is based on allowing a poetic reflection on loss, spirituality and transformation.

Along three walls, Requiem pays tribute to fellow artist Khadija Saye and remembers the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. 

Biographically, Chris Ofili met Khadija Saye in May 2017 when they were both exhibiting work in Venice. One month later, Saye died in the Grenfell Tower fire. Memories of their meeting had a profound impact on Ofili, which helped him find a path to create the mural Requiem. 

As per the technical description of the installation: Requiem is a journey through an imagined landscape of giant skies with vast horizons and flowing water, unfolding in three chapters. The left-hand wall depicts a bowing figure representing a prophet or witness. He holds the burning tower as though conducting a ceremony of loss and his tears fall into an ocean of despair. Khadija Saye is shown at the centre of an energy force high up on the middle wall. Her pose is drawn from her work Andichurai 2017, a screenprint of which is also on display at Tate Britain. The Gambian incense pot she holds symbolises the possibility of transformation through faith. To the right is a paradise-like landscape of hope and peace, where two mythical beings make music under the shade of a tree. The entire composition is united by water, representing collective grief as well as connecting Venice, London and Ofili’s home in Trinidad.

Requiem is located above Tate Britain’s north staircase and will be in place for 10 years. It follows on from the previous commission for this space, David Tremlett’s Drawing for Free Thinking, which was in place from September 2011 to February 2023.

 

©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo

 

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