Lubaina Himid Study Day – Reflections

Focused on artist Lubaina Himid, this Study Day aims to generate new readings of the artist’s work, invite personal responses and inspire continuing dialogue. It is a collaboration between BAM (Black Artists and Modernism) and Iniva (Institute of International Visual Art). One of the main premises of the BAM project is that the work of black artists is over-determined via sociological readings that leave this body of work outside of art history. The BAM Study Days – this is the third in a series of artist-focused study days and the first in collaboration with Iniva – are opportunities to re-address the balance.


Sam Thorne (Director, Nottingham Contemporary), 28.06.2016

The day was a fascinating one. The format was somewhat unusual, in that Lubaina was both subject and participant. This was handled well by both Lubaina and Marlene. Particularly useful for me was the way in which the study day brought together a range of reflections from different generations, some of those from people who had been closely connected with Lubaina’s work in the 80s, such as Sonia Boyce and Ingrid Pollard, others from a younger generation, such as Evan Ifekoya. I found the conversations to be remarkably open, rigorous and generous – oddly not a combination that happens often!

[The event] certainly influenced my thinking. I keep coming back to one of Lubaina’s closing remarks: ‘The whole project is trying to investigate that which is invisible.’ A wide range of references were made throughout the day: Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankin, kangas, Turner, Bridget Riley, Yinka Shonibare, Romare Bearden, Hannah Höch – these are just some of the names I remember. These all felt like useful starting points – maybe something to return to, or develop on. From my own perspective, as someone developing an exhibition (Jan 2017) with a focus on the 80s, I’d be particularly interested to discuss some of these questions from the angle of exhibition histories, as well as that from art history.

Dr Dorothy Price (Reader in History of Art at the University of Bristol), 29.06.16

Once again, it was a privilege to be invited to participate in the BAM study day on Himid’s work and to be able to engage in a close reading of it across different contributor’s perspectives. I thought the fact that Lubaina was able to provide a sample of her installation Inside the Invisible with all of the participants was a real highlight in terms of the aims of the session; it’s much harder to do a close reading of works when the works as material objects aren’t present. Having them to hold, feel, absorb and discuss engaged all of the senses in a way that a powerpoint can’t.

I also thought that the presence of the artist (both here and on the Jantjes day) was really helpful. Both artists (Himid and Jantjes) were incredibly humble, generous and welcoming. I liked the format of the day, having academics and artists mixed up and having different kinds of ‘responses’ to Himid’s work. I also thought that the cross-generational responses to the work were really encouraging and enriching.

I have always been interested in Lubaina’s very specific engagement with and disruption of modernism in her work; it is very visually evident across her work (as well as being confirmed by Lubaina herself on the day). I hadn’t appreciated quite the extent of an engagement with photomontage, especially in the Kanga series that Christine Eyene focused on. This is an area I would like to explore further in my own research on Lubaina’s work. What I am also really thrilled by is the way in which both this study day and the Jantjes day have expanded my thinking about Lubaina’s practice not just in terms of modernism but also in terms of its cross-generational impact – how, as I see it, a lineage can be traced from Jantjes to Lubaina to Evan Ifekoya’s work; again this is something I would further like to write about and develop, perhaps for my contribution to the BAM conference.

As part of the Black Artists & Modernism project, there are unfolding discussions amongst the research team and with scholars, artists, curators and other engaged publics.


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