Lubaina Himid (1974, Zanzibar) is an artist whose work includes paintings, prints, drawings and installations, and is the most recent winner of the Turner Prize. Her practice celebrates Black creativity and the movement of African peoples, all the while challenging their invisibility in institutional settings. In recent days, she has been stated to be one of the most under appreciated British artists of her time and when she won the Turner Prize she was proclaimed, not only as this but, as both the oldest-ever and first-ever black woman to collect it. Evidently, her own experiences influence what she produces.
In her interview for Tate after her nomination for the Turner Prize, Himid stated “I need to do it because there are stories that need to be told.” Himid studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Art and, combined with her MA in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art, this need is plain to see in most of her work. In Naming the Money, 100 life-size figures depict Black servants and labourers who Himid individualises, giving each of them a story and a tale to tell. Removed from the wall from which they were created, the figures literally move from being wallpaper to objects that stand alone surrounded by other figures just like them.
This movement from flat scenery to scene is undoubtedly influenced by the dark sense of the theatrical that permeates Himid’s installations. By creating the individuals as they are seen (or not seen) by society, she is able to enact the process of putting them at the forefront of conversation, moving them to centre of peoples’ attention.
“London in the 1980s in the midst of the hedonistic, greedy, self-serving, go-getting opportunistic mayhem was a fabulous location for me as a satirist and wit. Everyone who shook or moved in artistic semicircles or political whirlpools was a deserving dartboard. I took aim and threw.”
Himid’s work is consistently current, proving that though the world has changed a great deal in the past few years for her own subjects much remains the same. A prime example of this is in her work Fashionable Marriage which was first created and installed in the Pentonville Gallery in 1986 at the height of the right wing comeback and Margaret Thatcher’s time in government. Using characters from this time, Himid approached the individuals in the scenes through the eye of William Hogarth. The 18th Century who is most famous for his series of paintings of modern moral subjects offered a prime target for Himid who described him as the perfect ally.
Lubaina Himid is currently Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. Recent solo exhibitions include Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol, UK and Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, UK (both 2017). Recent group exhibitions include The Place is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK (2017); The 1980s Today’s Beginnings?, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2016); Keywords, Tate Liverpool, UK (2014); and Burning Down the House, Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014).
Amy E. Brown