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INSA x Chris Ofili

London designer INSA launches ten-inch high elephant dung heels at the Tate Britain

Chris Ofili’s retrospective at the Tate Britain is incredible. The commentary, references, emotions, stunning aesthetic, and nomadic influences on his life relate to a hugely diverse art audience. In response, Charlie Dark’s Bring The Noise event has invited a collective of young British artists – Mala, Cooly G and INSA, to name a few – into the Tate to create exclusive work inspired by the great man. London-based INSA's contribution is a pair of ten-inch elephant dung platform heels entitled “Anything Goes When it Comes To (s)Hoes” – a play on the classic Big Daddy Kane track “Pimpin Ain’t Easy”, which has been referenced in numerous Chris Ofili paintings. INSA also unveils a new piece “Only God and You Can Judge Me (Jumbo Edition)” currently on display.
Dazed Digital: How was it sourcing and working with resin and dung?
INSA: It was cool. This was a great opportunity to explore a material that I would never ever use normally in my work. It was almost an instant decision when I was asked to do some work inspired by and in response to Chris's work. I thought, ‘I want to track down some elephant dung!' I want to go through the same process of experimentation he must have done 15 years back. The actual reality of phoning round Zoos to be met by rather posh receptionists saying, ‘I don't think we give away animal faeces.’ Then trekking up to Whipsnade on the train and bringing home a sack of stinking shit was all very entertaining.
DD: With your work, talking about your heels collections – do you relate to the intricacy and time-consuming attention to detail that we can find in Chris Ofili's early work?
INSA: The detail and craftsmanship of his work is definitely part of my attraction to it. I find a lot of fine art is maybe too conceptual and lacking in the handmade beauty, and feeling you get from seeing a piece someone has spent time labouring over. I would say this craft ethos is more related to my spray painting days than my heel designing: refining special techniques and teaching yourself how to work with what initially seems like an inappropriate tool or medium.
DD: All of his work makes sense to our generation. The subjects that he is commenting on, the references... was that what first drew you to his art?
INSA: Yes, of course. Growing up on a diet of hip hop and re-appropriated black culture meant his work instantly resonated as something that I got, or at least something that I felt a slight understanding of. I have read several proper art reviews of his exhibitions and find it mad when the reviews talk about rap music's influence on him as an oddity or something completely unusual, when a whole generation grew up inspired by this genre.
DD: What is your favourite body of work from Chris Ofili's career?
INSA: It is definitely his earlier work. The whole elephant shit era. I just think the paintings embody such energy and excitement of a young creative growing up in London with all the seedy influences around him. The experimentation, humour and attitude in that period of work is great. It’s just like, ‘What? Fine art? Here's some shit! And what?!’
The Chris Ofili retrospective is on at Tate Britain from January 27  –  May 16, 2010