Himid makes paintings, prints, drawings and installations which celebrate Black creativity and the people of the African diaspora while challenging institutional invisibility. She references the slave industry and its legacies, and addresses the hidden and neglected cultural contribution made by real but forgotten people. In Naming the Money 2014, 100 cut-out life size figures depict Black servants and labourers who Himid individualises, giving each of them a name and story to work against the sense of the powerless mass. She often takes her paintings off the gallery wall so that her images become objects that surround the viewer. Whether working on Guardian newspapers or directly onto porcelain tableware, Himid continually subjects painting to the material of everyday life in order to explore Black identity.
Himid repeatedly questions the historical role of portraiture, as in works such as A Fashionable Marriage 1987, recently exhibited in The Place is Here at Nottingham Contemporary (2017). Inspired by William Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode 4 (The Countess’s Morning Levee) 1743, this installation features a brightly coloured stage set with a cast of characters taken from Hogarth’s morality tale. Incorporating painting, drawing and collage on cut-outs, the installation relates its historical inspiration to our current climate by including contemporary newspaper headlines and images of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Himid’s satirical approach takes aim at the politics of the time as well as its legacy today. In works such as these, the artist appropriates and interrogates European painters and combines aspects of her African heritage to question the role of visual power.
Alongside her artistic practice Himid has curated exhibitions to showcase underrepresented Black artists. As an artist, advocate and curator she has facilitated and celebrated the role of Black artists and their contributions to contemporary society.
Lubaina Himid is 62 and lives and works in Preston.