Affinities is a two-person exhibition of work by Trinidad-based artists Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Chris Ofili at the gallery’s London location. Featuring sculptural works by Thomas-Girvan alongside paintings by Ofili, Affinities brings to light the rich artistic conversation that exists between these two artists, arising both in response to their shared environment as well as an ongoing dialogue throughout the nearly two decades they have known each other.
Drawing alternately from Caribbean history, myth, ritual, literature, and her own experience, Thomas-Girvan’s poetically inflected works are grounded in the specificity of the Caribbean landscape and the region’s colonial past, but open out onto universal themes—most prominently, transformation and the construction of identity. Her sculptures and installations seamlessly weave together traditional supports, such as wood and bronze, with both found everyday objects and materials sourced from the natural environment, including shells, pieces of coral, palm fronds, and mangrove hairs, culled from a vast collection that she has amassed over time. The resulting assemblages, which cohere into singular visual statements, are at once familiar and fantastical, both venerating and working through a rich and complicated past. As Ofili notes: “Jasmine’s work tells beautiful and mysterious tales that are a combination of fragility and dread with a knowing nod towards alchemy and witchcraft of the past, present, and future.”
On view will be several large- and small-scale canvases by Ofili from a 2019 body of work devoted to the figures of Calypso and Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey. Inspired in part by the music of Trinidad, where Ofili has lived since 2005, the artist has reimagined Calypso—traditionally represented as a deceptive femme fatale—as a striking mermaid, and he has visualised Odysseus as a beautiful, dark-skinned suitor. In the paintings, Ofili presents the characters with curving bodies, sumptuously spread out across the compositions and displayed in layered surfaces filled with arabesque vines and bubble-like forms. Known for his intricate, kaleidoscopic paintings and works on paper that deftly merge abstraction and figuration, Ofili’s recent works—vibrant, symbolic, and frequently mysterious—evoke the lush landscapes and local traditions of Trinidad. Affinities is on view through September 21 at David Zwirner 24 Grafton Street, London. Photographs courtesy of David Zwirner