Over four decades, Lubaina Himid’s work has made her an increasingly influential figure in contemporary art from her role in the British Black arts movement of the 1980s to winning the Turner Prize in 2017. Tate Modern presents Himid’s largest solo exhibition to date, incorporating new paintings and significant highlights from across her career. Taking inspiration from the artist’s interest in opera and her training in theatre design, the show unfolds across a sequence of scenes which put the visitor centre-stage.
The exhibition presents over 50 works that bring together painting, everyday objects, poetic texts and sound. Early installations including the well-known A Fashionable Marriage 1984 will enter into a dialogue with recent works such as her series of large format paintings Le Rodeur 2016-18, while new paintings created during lockdown will go on public display for the first time.
An early fascination with pattern, influenced by her mother’s career as a textile designer, has always been central to Himid’s work. A series of suspended cloth flags inspired by East African kanga textiles will welcome visitors to the exhibition at Tate Modern.
Throughout her career, Himid has explored and expanded the possibilities of storytelling, encouraging the viewer to become an active participant in her work. A fictional architecture competition inspires the installation Jelly Mould Pavilions for Liverpool 2010, in which a series of hand-painted ceramic models celebrate the contributions of the African diaspora and invite viewers to reflect on the role of monuments in public space. Displayed at Tate Modern alongside a range of works including Metal Handkerchiefs 2019 in a room addressing architecture and the built environment, Himid poses the question: ‘We live in clothes, we live in buildings. Do they fit us?’
A major highlight of the exhibition will be the presence of sound installations, including Blue Grid Test 2020, created by Himid in collaboration with artist Magda Stawarska-Beavan. Displayed in the UK for the first time, this 25-metre-long painting features 64 patterns from all over the world, each painted a different shade of blue on top of a variety of objects pinned to the gallery walls. Coupled with a sound installation layering instrumental music with Himid’s voice, the work creates a visual and sonic embrace.
The show will culminate in a group of recent paintings and painted objects, which centre on extraordinary moments of everyday life which are rarely portrayed. The series Men in Drawers 2017-19 features tender portraits of imaginary figures inside vintage wooden furniture, while works like Cover the Surface 2019 depict intimate interactions and moments of indecision between men. Himid also continues to explore women’s creativity in her recent paintings, including The Operating Table 2019.
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Modern website here
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