Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern – The Oxford Student
Image Description: The play ‘Ball on Shipboard’, 2018 by Lubaina Himid.
One of the many advantages of student life in Oxford is the proximity to the countless cultural centers of London. While most students are apprehensive about spending their very limited time traveling over two hours, the motivation to be able to see artists like Lubaina Himid is well worth the trip. Those who lived in Oxford in 2017 may remember his “Invisible Strategies” exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, which challenged and reinvented the Western canon.
A central figure in the Black British Arts movement of the 1980s, Himid is a Royal Academician with an MA in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art. Currently living and working in Preston, she received the Turner Prize in 2017, as well as a CBE for Service to Art at the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honors. A recurring theme throughout her work is exploration. social and political issues surrounding gender and race, offering honest and original reflections on the experiences of black people, especially women, in Britain. His exhibition at Tate Modern, the largest exhibition of his work to date, emphasizes the viewer’s challenge to consider their agency and contemplate what they really want out of life. Although his preferred medium is painting and drawing, Himid uses sculpture, architecture, soundscapes, and music to achieve this effect.
A striking aspect of Himid’s exhibition is the care she took in creating the overall environment for the exhibition. The exhibition does not just showcase Himid’s work, but is carefully designed to create a specific atmosphere. For example, there is a noticeable lack of informative body text on the walls, in contrast to the usual layout of exhibits at Tate Modern. This gives the impression that the exhibition looks less like a collection of paintings and more like a world the viewer enters. Himid describes how “the viewer is in the paintings… The experience should be like walking into a room and deciding what you are going to do, how you will react and interact”. To this end, the plaques next to the works of art only contain the respective name and date, allowing the viewer to see for himself what the works make them feel rather than being told. It also leaves all meaning open to interpretation, letting Himid’s message be conveyed through the sheer works of art and the atmosphere they create.
Despite the recurring use of bright, cheerful colors in Himid’s work, the exhibition creates a constant sense of dull ache and brooding ache regarding the traumas of the slave trade.
Himid’s exhibit subtly but eloquently recalls the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, while looking to the future, encouraging the viewer to consider the scope of their action and emancipation. Himid writes that she wanted to capture “the ghost of everything” and that “Rather than painting hundreds of people in dire distress and dying, I wanted to create something that conveyed a sense of utter inability to understand what happened.” Her deliberate choice not to focus on naturalism means that the paintings have a sense of a dream world, or a memory, and in some cases are slightly nightmarish. She also uses the returning sea motifs and eccentric, deserted and yet forbidden architectural structures throughout the exhibition, alluding to a sense of isolation and tragedy. Despite the recurring use of bright, cheerful colors in Himid’s work, the exhibition creates a constant sense of dull ache and brooding ache regarding the traumas of the slave trade. This silence and lack of rage is a poignant reflection of how people have not had the luxury of outrage and have had no choice but to move on with their lives as best they can despite a enormous injustice and oppression.
Himid also emphasizes the process of moving forward and people, especially women, who define themselves on their own terms, by asking questions such as “We live in clothes, we live in clothes. buildings, do they suit us? Himid pays attention to mundane and often unnoticed activities, encouraging the viewer to do so too, with works such as “The Operating Table,” which premieres in the exhibition, along with six more of his new paintings. Himid. The painting shows women working on a quilt, reflecting the dissection and tinkering of history and identity, as the women define how their story is told. Himid’s “Blue Grid Test”, also making its UK debut, shows everyday items such as paper bags, musical instruments, clocks and furniture placed on the wall under a 25-meter painting. long featuring 64 different patterns from around the world painted in blue. Although these objects are made, the way they are organized and presented is an art in itself as it prompts the viewer to reconsider their meaning, both to himself and to others. Himid continually prompts the viewer to self-reflect, each piece being titled with a question, and a list of questions at the start of the information brochure guiding the viewer to consider how they engage with the exhibit.
The use of soundscapes is another element that contributes to the immersive atmosphere of the exhibition, distinguishing it from the typical exhibition of an artist’s work at Tate Modern.
Another unorthodox but extremely effective highlight of the exhibition is the use of sound art to extend visual works. Having worked closely with sound artist Magda Stawarski-Beavan, Lubaina Himid includes recordings of her own voice in theaters as well as pre-recorded classical music. In “What does love look like? “And the all new” Want an Easy Life? ” Himid uses carefully placed speakers to completely immerse the viewer in the work. The juxtaposition of classical music by Stawaska-Beavan with the stories of enslaved individuals, read by Himid, adds to the feeling of forced artificial calm. The use of soundscapes is another element that contributes to the immersive atmosphere of the exhibition, distinguishing it from the typical exhibition of an artist’s work at Tate Modern.
The personal touch of the exhibition, made possible by the fact that, unlike many artists, Himid is alive to ensure its conservation, gives it a singularly sincere and intimate atmosphere. By inviting people to view his art, Himid invites the viewer to really look at himself and consider whether or not his standards are being met. The exhibit is a celebration of marginalized groups taking over the agency they’ve been denied while challenging the viewer to do the same. By telling stories through his art, Himid has created a unique personal and inspiring experience, which asks the intimidating question of “What do I really want out of life?”
The Lubaina Himid exhibition is taking place at Tate Modern until July 3, 2022, you can book your tickets here.
Image Credit: Lubaina Himid via Tate Modern
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