Old Boat, New Weather

Lubaina Himid (1954 - )



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© Lubaina Himid - Commissioned by the Government Art Collection for The Robson Orr TenTen Award 2018, a GAC/Outset Annual Commission

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    The traditional tropes of painted seascapes are found in 'Old Boat, New Weather': the harbour, the impending storm and the boat itself are reinvented in screen print through archive photographic imagery and woven colour. The composition brings together familiar motifs in Lubaina Himid’s practice, referencing the juxtaposition of safety and danger, architecture and ships, slavery and imperial trade. 

    The lower section of the print shows a vessel, part-ship and part-shack, in a European harbour. The artist, moved by an encounter with the dilapidated dwellings of freed slaves in Carolina (USA) has monumentalised a barn-like structure, fixing it to a trade ship. The effect is that of an ark; a symbol for a place of refuge. Himid said of the idea that ‘the whole of history is in the harbour – but we know that this story will set sail.’ The image itself is ‘a chance to hold history back’. Always hinting at what is not visible, Old Boat, New Weather is both stalling history and preparing for a future where the climate will cause mass displacement.   

    The ‘sky’ is built up into grid-like layers of crossing colours that tilt the work into the abstract. The multicoloured stripes, between opacity and transparency, use subtle nuances of colour mixing to take advantage of the screen printing technique, achieving what cannot be done with painting. Patterns commonly feature in Lubaina Himid’s practice – working closely with the printmaker, Magda Stawarska-Beavan, and influenced by 1960s Polish theatre posters, they built up the colours step by step in 19 printed layers. In 2019 Himid created the sculptural work Old Boat/New Money whilst in residence at Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, Cornwall, in a space once occupied by the painter Ben Nicholson. Thirty-two wooden planks are painted in different variations of grey. Old Boat, New Weather continues her narrative on the legacy of maritime travel. 

    Himid is the fourth artist to be awarded The Robson Orr TenTen Award by the Government Art Collection. This annual print commission is awarded to an outstanding British artist every year with the support of philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr who were inspired by an American initiative by the Foundation for Arts and Preservation in Embassies. Introduced to the Government Art Collection by Outset Contemporary Art Fund, the Robson Orrs’ enthusiasm for supporting a UK art commission with global reach, became the TenTen project. This ten-year commitment will create important new additions to the Collection around the world, while annual sales from eleven of the prints sold through Outset will raise funds for the Collection to acquire art by emerging talent in the UK.

  • About the artist
    Born in Zanzibar in 1954, Lubaina Himid moved to the UK as a child, where she studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Art and Cultural History at the Royal College of Art. For over 40 years, she has actively encouraged the promotion and support of the Black Arts Movement, particularly work by women. In the 1980s and ‘90s, she curated a number of important group exhibitions including ‘The Thin Black Line' (ICA, 1985) and 'Unrecorded Truths' (Elbow Room, 1986). Himid currently lives and works in Preston and is Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. She is the winner of the 2017 Turner Prize. Selected solo exhibitions include: ‘Spotlights’, Tate Britain (2019); ‘The Grab Test’, Frans Hals Museum (2019); and ‘Work from Underneath’, New Museum (2019). In 2021 Himid will present a major monographic exhibition at Tate Modern, London.
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  • Details
    Old Boat, New Weather
    Series Title
    height: 103cm; width 58.5cm
    Commissioned by the Government Art Collection for The Robson Orr TenTen Award 2021, a GAC/Outset Annual Commission
    GAC number