THE vibrant paintings of Tanzanian-born, British-based artist Lubaina Himid shimmer with Zanzibar’s piquant colours but within them, turbulent waters forecast change, hope and uncertainty. Invisible Strategies, the first survey exhibition of Himid’s work is on show at the contemporary art space, Modern Art Oxford. The display comprises early work from the 1980s to the present day, including pieces that have not been exhibited before.
Highlighting a more truthful version of historical events, Himid appeals to her audience through her lively canvases, textiles, cutouts, prints and collages. The artist explains, “I am not a painter in the strictest sense … I am a political strategist who uses a visual language to encourage conversation, argument, change.”
Throughout her work, strange interiors and puzzling scenarios suggest transition or escape, whilst the myriad of over-painted plates and jugs provide a poignant reminder to past and indeed, present day slavery.
In her work, the legacy of colonial trade, diaspora and conflict become embodied with her personal experiences. The painting series Le Rodeur, named after a nineteenth century slave ship recalls a time of great sadness and change following her father’s death from malaria in the mid-1950s. Travelling with her mother at just four months old, Himid left the shores of Zanzibar for the bustle and bright lights of Blackpool, UK.
The distant waves that corner Himid’s transitory spaces allude to peril, migration and her empathy with the power of the elements, “I have never been able to swim properly and am very frightened of the sea and of drowning,” says Himid.
Lubaina Himid is a Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. Since her early involvement with the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s, she has campaigned for the recognition of black artists through exhibitions, projects, conferences including research documentaries for Tate Liverpool.
by Miranda Charalambous
The exhibition, Lubaina Himid: Invisible Strategies runs from 21 January to 30 April 2017 at Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP.
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 722733
Front page image: Lubaina Himid, Le Rodeur: Exchange, 2016. Courtesy the artist & Hollybush Gardens