Himid, Lubaina (8 of 23).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2006-09-11, 2006-09-12, 2006-10-02, 2006-10-03, 2006-11-06, 2006-11-07, 2007-01-15, 2007-01-16

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Preston

  • Interviewees

    Himid, Lubaina, 1954- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: [Session Four: 3 October 2006] [59:56] Relationship between LH’s politics and art; cut-out men series. For long time cared more about message and impact, than aesthetics or how long it would last. Working collaboratively on We Will Be’. Influence of theatre design training; wasn’t precious about her work or the shows. Motivation: to get a point across, speak to other women about how they view the world. Didn’t regard her work as personal; has different view in hindsight - eg. describes ‘We Will Be’; mentions Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth; beginning of LH trying to be a certain kind of artist - moving away from the shock/satirical aspect of the cut-out men. [12:44] Art which had impact on LH: Russian political posters, Brecht plays - understanding of the power of cultural, creative works. Liked paintings which expressed domestic ideal eg. Matisse, Spencer’s ‘Swan Upping’; but wanted to make work which would change people’s lives. As theatre designer, noticing everything [sound dropout 16:41]; not a hierarchy or a linear art history; multiple influences - LH always doing many things at once, eg. will work on two shows at once. Reflects on BWTN happening immediately after ‘Five Black Women’. Didn’t describe herself as curator, didn’t select the work; motivation behind the shows. Unfortunately didn’t make documentation of the shows. Describes BWTN space; SB pastel drawing, VR’s lead gourds, Leslee Wills’ fabrics, Janet Caron’s masks, Mumtaz Karimjee [MK]’s photographs, LH’s ‘We Will Be’, Ingrid Pollard [IP]’s knitted jumpers. Mentions Maud Sulter [MS]. Wanted to feature all forms of creativity rather than ‘art’; the conversations between them. Equal status of the artists, and all brought own audience to the work. All saying ‘we exist’. [31:55] First day at RCA; not knowing anyone; age 28 - older than other students; canteen eating. LH’s routine; students’ characters; building; spending time in library, eg. discovering a 1960s African art catalogue. Didn’t mix with practical students, except women photographers. Didn’t present herself as artist in upfront way. In seminars, was called a ‘cultural terrorist’ by students. Conservatism of RCA students, lack of political engagement. LH didn’t go to degree ceremony. Made three exhibitions while at RCA; succeeded in achieving her aims, but looking back only sees the gaps. Writing thesis helped galvanise the making of the exhibitions; both were new challenge. Didn’t enjoy being at RCA, but important to use it afterwards. [44:04] Didn’t present the black artists’ (or own) work to tutors/students; their response wasn’t important. Gave presentations re-conferences, ideas. Researching (lack of) availability of images of black people in national art collections. Reading Guardian daily for how black people were presented; racism in liberal press - still today. Guardian’s status/readership; influence of its imagery. Christopher Frayling; other tutors weren’t so supportive. LH didn’t publish thesis; never looked at it again; embarrassed by what hadn’t managed to say. Originally wanted to make manual: how to be a young black artist in Britain today. Has done this via teaching over last fifteen years; archiving, collecting information, conversations, putting different people in touch. Different to be black artist now than in 1982. There’s a need to show you don’t have to follow the role models. Backlash to 1980s political artists; ‘Coon Art’; black artists being silly; being serious is not an option in order to be successful; eg. Chris Ofili’s elephant dung, or Steve McQueen’s shed falling on top of him. Visibility comes at a price. [59:56]

  • Related transcripts

    Lubaina Himid interviewed by Anna Dyke: full transcript of the interview

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