Himid, Lubaina (17 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 17: [Session Seven: 15 January 2007] [1:40:38] ‘Transforming the Crown’ 1996. Curator Mora Byrd [MB]. Showed LH’s ‘Carrot Piece’, ‘My Parents, Their Children’. Whole picture of black art in ‘80s Britain; MB also chose artists who weren’t really part of that movement. Needed catalogue to get coherent sense of the narrative. Value of the show; how LH felt about it at the time. Financial situation meant she couldn’t go to the show. Useful catalogue; tracks the story from artists’ point of view, rather than cultural historians’. Being interviewed by MB for the catalogue; important to get story straight, eg. CJ’s role. How the story has been skewed/simplified. Refers to SB. Yinka Shonibare [YS], wasn’t active in Black Art movement, although was a student and making work. Opinion of YS’ work. [16:12] ‘Transforming the Crown’ didn’t lead to selling the work; LH’s work is bought by museums - curators with specific agendas, or private collectors buy the paperworks. Reflects on reasons for this; lack of the right brokers/dealers. Recently reading through past reviews - work often described as ‘angry’. Brian Sewell review of ‘The Other Story’. Difference between American and British critics; being placed in art world hierarchy - knowing the game; would prefer more descriptions of the work, to encourage an audience. [24:56] Starting to show in New York, Peg Alston Gallery; came via MS’ contacts. Describes LH’s paperworks; the gallery space; mentions Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett. Conversations with Black collectors - enthused, treated LH as an artist. Visits New York when showing; hasn’t gone since 9/11 - having Muslim name. [31:00] Never considered living in New York; no place to be poor. Seeing art, dance, music there; experiencing culture. Interest in other art forms; going into theatre design initially; how theatre can influence one’s everyday life; disappointment of theatre world in Britain. Listening to music while making work; helps concentration. Doesn’t like silence. [35:40] ‘Scary’ to be in ‘Transforming the Crown’ - looking back, whilst more interested in making new work. Didn’t want to continue making same work as in ‘80s. How LH’s work had changed by mid ‘90s; allusions to being in a dangerous place as a black person. Describes ‘Beach House’ series; tradition of British sea paintings by Laura Knight, William Steer. Curators want what they know; frustrating that they were only interested in past work; how LH feels about this now. 1995 show, with MS, ‘Word Not Found’ in Trier, Germany; about politics of geography and health - experimentation on black people. Would have welcomed more sophisticated criticism; frustration of working in a vacuum. Rosemary Miles, print curator at V&A wanted to buy it, but conservation issue due to use of photocopies. Describes the work; how it was made and shown; MS’ photographs from own surgery. Curators Martin Barlow at Wrexham, Christina Threuter and Angela Rosenthal at Trier. Would have welcomed bigger arenas for artistic conversations. [51:20] Critical writing. MS’ book ‘Passion’ published in 1990. Through 1990s, being in debt; MS’ ambitious schemes, but only with private or loaned money - madness. Problem of living outside London; no email communication etc then. [55:40] Role of critics, historians, writers - so artists have to have charm, understand how to communicate with these people, to get own ideas across. But can’t control how/if they write about it. Successful artists have communication skills; gauge what critics will be interested in, what language they speak. Refers to Peter Doig, YS, Damien Hirst. Audience needs the artist’s, historian’s, and curator’s voices to get a full picture. But more important to spend time with the art, eg. watching all of an Isaac Julien film. [1:06:32] Not about the viewer understanding all of the artist’s intentions, but that they have own experience from the work. ‘Naming the Money’; viewers’ different responses. The work helps the conversation. Doesn’t want to control an audience’s response. Student’s comment re-LH’s work; helped LH understand it in new way. ‘Making the viewer do something’; empowering them. [1:12:25] Annoyed by artists who have done a piece of work like LH’s, many years later; eg. Tracey Emin doing beach houses, YS talking about Hogarth. But it drove LH to make ‘Naming the Money’ - determined to execute a great idea, not put it aside. [1:15:47] Reasons for keeping making the work; always thinking of the next idea; challenging herself; competing with contemporary and past artists. Tried to stop two years ago; but Susan Ashworth at Lancashire Museums offered a show, so it started again. [1:19:00] Dealing with storage and conservation; expensive to store. Used to think short-term like theatre designer. American art historians now want LH’s work from ‘80s, can’t understand why it doesn’t exist anymore. Describes new storage space, part of Watermark Studios complex. Would give work away to collections - better kept, plus it could be used. Wants people to see and use the work. Doesn’t have a plan for the work after she dies; refers to DR. Will over-paint old work - examples; reduce it to the best work. Historian Courtney Martin’s comment. Reality of having to pay for storage, not having a dealer. Everything is photographed. Anxious that particular works survive; what you can do with some art is important; eg. ‘Plan B’, ‘Venetian Maps’, ‘Naming the Money’. [1:32:17] MB wanting LH to remake ‘A Fashionable Marriage’; ‘The Eager Listener’, ‘Margaret Thatcher’; a chance to say why this had to be remade. To be shown in 2009; MB writing PhD on artists who have used Hogarth. Being the subject of study; having to remember details; feels the work was worth doing, it made a difference. Teaching; important to talk about what you’re making. [1:40:38]

  • Related transcripts

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

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