Himid, Lubaina (14 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 14: [Session Six: 7 November 2006] [1:46:05] Reasons for breaking up with MR; wanted to be own person, rather than looked-after. Reflects on her behaviour. Being grown-up, responsible since. Hadn’t had to earn a living while with MR; unequal partnership. Going straight into new relationship with MS; strategic, business arrangement; saw disagreements as a strength; argued for fifteen years, but very stimulating. Most important thing was the art was going well; didn’t know how relationships were meant to work. Very important relationship, but LH wasn’t in love, too preoccupied. Always being in a relationship, rather than being single; but has to make time to work and make a living as well. [17:09] MS’ background, Ghanaian and Scottish; London College of Fashion; later took MA degree at Derby 1990. When they met, MS was published poet. Describes MS’ collage and text work in TTBL. MS organised ‘Check It’ at Drill Hall; broadening idea of black women’s creativity; her attitude to visual artists. Could turn her hand to anything - poems, plays, visual art - working process; gathering participants/delegating, eg. ‘Zabat’ photography project, owned by V&A. Spiritual and intuitive visual artist. ‘Check It’ event; culmination of MS’ work with poets eg. Dorothea Smart, musicians, theatre, dance, Sisterwrite bookshop, women’s education organisation, publisher Desmond [Johnson] who published poetry books including MS, Marsha Prescott. [29:57] LH’s unwilling involvement in ‘Zabat’ project; hated dressing up/posing for photograph. Other participants included: Dionne Sparks, student from Liverpool art school; LH; MS; Dorothea Smart; Ysaye Barnwell, singer from American acappella group [Sweet Honey and the Rocks]. ‘Zabat’ exhibition at Rochdale Art Gallery; bizarre Guardian review by Robert Clark. V&A purchase via Olivier Richon and Mark Hayworth-Booth; British Council and Arts Council have sets also; MS’ best-known work. [40:54] ‘New Robes for Mashulan’ show at Rochdale Art Gallery. Jill Morgan [JM], was influential curator, eg. put on Laurie Anderson show at Rochdale. JM wanted LH to put on another TTBL. MS persuaded JM to put on LH solo show; retrospective, plus new cut-outs ‘Fishing’, ‘Reclaiming History’; plus an MS/LH collaboration. JM’s aims for the show; knew big group shows of black artists were bad idea. Mashulan is LH’s grandmother; MS didn’t know her African family to same extent. Alternative title ‘No Maps’; LH prefers short titles. [50:47] More detail of collaborative piece: LH’s mirror cloth bowls - implied conversation with viewer; MS’ paintings; conversations with their black grandmothers. Robert Clark review. [56:45] Making ‘New Robes’ in London; painting on found materials; still a short working time. Has always used Liquitex Acrylics; pure colour, can be used in different ways. More interested in quality of colour rather than paint application. Development of painting technique, from experimentation. Vibrancy of colour; impact - luring viewer, and then having dialogue. Having a conversation in the room, not taking viewer to an imagined world. Often poetic, but not mysterious. [1:06:15] Moving to Hebden Bridge; Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes/Arvon Foundation connection; 1970s lesbian community. Shock of moving from London, to tiny community. Landscape. MS thrived there; LH made studio in their house. ‘Toussaint L’Ouverture’ series, made for ‘Depicting History for Today’ curated by Mike Tooby. ‘The Wing Museum’ show at Chisenhale; series of 6x6ft paintings. MS again negotiated the show; curator Emma Dexter - LH had previously participated in ‘Palaces of Culture’ at Stoke. Describes the show; always interested in idea of museum; invented story of the wing; made paintings/objects linked to achievements of black people in history; private view card plus text; critique of role of museums. Making/altering objects; theatre design training. Describes paintings, alluding to domestic life. Talking about invisible presence of black people. [1:21:26] At same time curators wanted the show to go to Stoke, and Clementine Deliss wanted it as a part of show in Austria, at Grazer Kunstverein, alongside Rosemarie Trockel, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach. Solved by LH making three new paintings for Stoke. Packed opening at Galaza Kunstwerai. Opinion of work of Rosemarie Trockel, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons; ‘Lotte and the Transformation of the Object’. Reflects on earlier comment about wanting to be famous - in order to be heard, visibility; black women too easily pushed to back room of history; doesn’t mind other black women disagreeing with her - a richer picture. [1:31:47] Reflects on how LH’s work developed after leaving London; more interested in building visible black history, reclaiming neglected histories; stopped making jokey, satirical pieces; tried to create element of resolution, hope. Kept aware of other black artists by seeing shows. How others’ work developed eg. DR, SB. Each negotiating lives as artists, usually without dealers and buyers. Support from curators eg. JM, Emma Dexter, Mike Toobey, Sandy Nairne, and curator of Birmingham City Art Gallery. Financially surviving by day jobs; their family backgrounds. Made the work to make it do something; not for sale. Quotes RA: ‘making ourselves visible’. Only MS thought of selling work; but hadn’t spent years nurturing buyers. LH reflects on her decisions, work made - not thinking in terms of selling, or pleasing anyone else. [1:46:05]

  • Related transcripts

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

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