‘Popcorn Shells’ comes from a series of paintings about music that sample the heroes of jazz, hip hop, rap and black popular culture, mixing them up with overtly decorative African art. Just as jazz is a fusion of musical, cultural and personal influences, this painting fuses together the artist’s perceptions of its origins and development, mapping out a family tree of musicians. Chris Ofili identifies the stars of the genre and illustrates their inspirations; a wreath of little heads, for example, rings a larger reproduction of Aretha Franklin.

‘Popcorn Shells’ takes a scrapbook approach to history and culture; like a jazz musician, Ofili replays familiar tunes in his own personal style. Layering photographic images, resin dots, glitter and paint, he often adds another signature element: lumps of elephant dung sourced from London zoo. Balanced against the wall, ‘Popcorn Shells’ rests on two dung props. More than just a cultural signifier, the dung (itself lacquered with a glittering resin) unceremoniously breaks up the decorative aesthetic in Ofili’s paintings.


  • Title: Popcorn Shells
  • Creator: Chris Ofili
  • Date Created: 1995
  • Physical Dimensions: 182.9 x 121.9 x 15.8cm
  • Rights: Chris Ofili
  • Medium: Paper collage, oil, polyester resin, map-pins and elephant dung on linen + 2 elephant dung props

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