Colours And Perfume
Lubaina Himid deeply explores ideas around identity and representation through thought-provoking art that shifts the chemistry in a room. ‘Just like perfume’ that lingers into the atmosphere even after a woman departs, she wants her works to leave a long-standing impression. What Himid highlights is that great art leaves a potent message with the viewer – inciting them to seek a better understanding of themselves and the world they live in. She has spent her career challenging the collective invisibility of black and asian people in the Diaspora and their silenced histories through curated exhibitions to showcase their works in the hopes to reposition, especially, the black female presence from the margins of the art world.
Born in Zanzibar, raised in London and now living and working in Preston, Himid has been practicing art for 40 years, championing inclusion in the arts for women who are largely underrepresented and the rich variety in women’s creativity.
The Thin Black Line(s) was the most prolific exhibition Himid curated at the Institute for Contemporary Arts (1985), following the success of ‘Five Black Women’ at the African Centre (1983) and ‘Black Women Time Now’ at Battersea Arts Centre (1983–1984). These pivotal exhibitions gave a platform to artists whose work would have otherwise been neglected by the art world. With ‘Thin Black Line(s)’, Himid confronted what she described as a double negation, of being Black and a woman, paintings and installations she recently revisited at Tate Britain in 2011-12, this time showing the works of 11 artists of African, Caribbean, and Asian descent. As a cultural activist, her large-scale installations and paintings continue to draw on her heritage and commitment to social issues which she expresses using sculptures, plywood, mixed media, acrylic, textiles and ceramic.
Himid’s paintings are dichotomies in which the viewer’s gaze is often held defiantly. She uses colours and text to fill in the gaps in human experiences, commenting on social politics, race, gender and class to offer new forms of storytelling. Her paintings are tinged with memories of her own lost country, between land and sea, filled with vivid patterns, humour and light, that convey a feeling of not quite belonging. Her background in Theatre Design reverberates throughout her installations which adds to the viewer’s experience of being both centre-stage and backstage which she does so very well.
Himid’s contributions to the British Black arts movement since the 1980s have made her an emblematic figure in the UK art scene today, she is extremely hot property right now. In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize and in 2018 she was bestowed with the honorary title of CBE for her contributions to the arts. She is currently a professor of art history at the University of Central Lancashire. Her work has been shown in many European institutions, including the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Wiels in Brussels and the New Museum in New York.
There is currently a showing of her recent work that includes a selection of paintings from her influential career at the Tate Modern in London, in collaboration with Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne until later this year.
Lubaina Himid is at The Tate Modern Bankside, London until 2 October 2022