Chris Ofili’s Black Shunga portfolio raises questions about perception and visual resolution on literal and metaphorical levels. Challenging our sense of the familiar, the work’s layers of deep shades of blue on a silver-hued ground evoke what the artist describes as a “moonlike glow … not dark nor light, everything is reflecting back.” As our eyes slowly adjust, frolicking figures emerge, engaged in the intimate encounters suggested by the work’s title, an allusion to erotic nineteenth-century Japanese shunga prints. Just as Ofili’s prints grow out of a fusion of cultures, so too scenes of pleasure both combine with and emerge from the work’s surface in a gradual revelation akin to the joyful dawning of creative insight or inspiration.
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