In Gateshead, “Our Kisses are Petals” is one of the most well-aimed solo show voted to Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art recently opened the “Great Exhibition of the North” (22 June – 9 September), a series of artistic programs for the UK’s largest public event of 2018, featuring several outdoor commission. Our Kisses are Petals could be just one of the many hosting exhibitions, in parallel with installation artist Michael Dean (22 June – 30 September) and Turner Prize-nominated artist Phil Collins (22 June – 14 October), as well as a group exhibition, “Idea of North” (11 May – 30 September), which explores the wider northern identity, highlighting resilience, resurgence, culture, photography, music and language. But the truth is that “Our Kisses are Petals” represents more than an usual exhibition, exploring a new divine birth of Lubaina Himid, where human and superhuman powers come together unexpectedly yet inevitably as if predetermined in some unknown generative expression. The verse ‘Our kisses are petals, our tongues caress the bloom’ by the British poet, Essex Hemphill explores the language we use to express ourselves, together with the creative power which can never be analysed and understood by the destructive acts of simple reason.
Lubaina’s pioneering efforts throughout the 80s saw her organising exhibitions of work by her peers as Keith Piper and Eddie Chambers, who she felt were under-represented in the contemporary art scene. Her work and the many artists she worked alongside, would later be recognised as the British Black Arts Movement. They also made work addressing the marginalization of artists of colour by the mainstream British art world, and confronted the histories of slavery and empire that lay beneath post-war immigration. Himid produced bold figurative works with black female subjects as their central focus, giving these individuals a subjectivity and agency that was reinforced by her use of wood cut-outs, a direct way to afford them physical presence. So extant in front of current times, oeuvre and words by Himid forms actually a powerful counterblast to the conservative rhetoric of both the political and artistic establishments. Bearing in mind the whole of her story, always in search of an evolution, “Our Kisses are Petals” originates from new paintings on cloth (named Kanga).
For Himid, these manifold fabrics are ‘speaking clothes’, which employ ‘the language of image, pattern and text through which one woman’s outfit talks to another’s’. In a huge room, Himid invites visitors to rearrange the hanging works by a system of pulleys to form their own poetry. The suspended Kangas boasts a flag-like quality, where the artist depicts inner body parts, such as the inside of an eye socket. Moreover Himid subverted the role of flags in British culture by producing a major outdoor commission for “Great Exhibition of the North”. And every Sunday, together with performances and community happenings, the flag (Why are you looking?, 2018) that sits atop Baltic flows in the wind as a ritual, spiritual power element which does not need to be restrained or detained. Because the best way to staring at it is to know Himid’s creation from within, through her creation.
- Exhibition Title:
- Lubaina Himid. Our Kisses are Petals
- Opening dates:
- 11 May – 28 October 2018
- Curated by:
- Katie Hickman
- Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
- S Shore Rd, Gateshead NE8 3BA