Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern
Tate Modern is honouring Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid with a large-scale exhibition grouping some of her earlier works with a number of recent additions. A mix of paintings, installations, words and soundscapes allow Himid to express her creativity on many levels as she addresses personal and political themes.
The artist had originally trained in theatre design before she turned to the creation of innovative artworks characterised by a keen social awareness. The set up of the exhibition is inspired by Himid’s theatrical background in that it plays out as if it were a succession of scenes that the viewer can walk through. Each room has a different mood and a different set of stories to tell, and a series of questions to pose (literally, printed on the walls). The exhibition also features soundscapes engulfing some of the spacious rooms, designed to contribute to the (mostly nonverbal) narration.
The contrast of bold, vibrant colours that can be seen in much of her work is captivating. Her characters are simple, striking figures that often have the appearance of being pensive or troubled. They are usually placed in semi-abstract locations, some engaging in work, others gathered together or standing side by side in what look like casual meetings. Aside from the portraits, the body of work selected for display is wide and varied.
One room is an ode to the colour blue in all its shades: a stripe of blue patterns runs across several everyday objects hanging next to each other. Elsewhere, a row of beams leaning on the wall form the shape of a wave and are accompanied by the sound of the crashing sea. In her 1986 work, A Fashionable Marriage, theatre meets political satire through life-sized cut-out figures that populate one corner of the room. Beside it, a large bedsheet features Himid’s own take on Picasso’s Two Women Running on the Beach, where the women depicted are black and pulled by the force of angry looking dogs on a leash.
Although there is much to be seen and admired, the overall experience does not feel as immersive as it sets out to be. This could be due to the dispersive large spaces, or to the absence of strong links gluing the different sections together. Even if it fails to engage in the way it leads visitors to expect, the exhibition does succeed in making one appreciate Himid’s inventiveness and her creative flair.
Lubaina Himid is at Tate Modern from 25th November until 2nd October 2022. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.