|One of Lubaina Himid's works for the exhibition.|
SHARJAH Art Foundation makes debuts for artists Lubaina Himid and Magda Stawarska in an exhibition showcasing the works of the two artists, alongside four new commissions, including a major collaborative installation and three additional works by Stawarska.
The exhibition—Himid’s and Stawarska’s first in the region—highlights the artists’ continued exploration of language and memory through their individual practices and ongoing partnership, with works spanning painting, installation, sound and more. On view in the galleries and courtyards of Al Mureijah Square from 29 October 2023 through 28 January 2024, Plaited Time / Deep Water is curated by Dr Omar Kholeif, the Foundation’s Director of Collections and Senior Curator.
“In Plaited Time / Deep Water, the personal archive finds its rejoinder in Sharjah’s changing light through lyric, voice and song. The results of Lubaina’s and Magda’s encounters can be experienced across multiple media in this exhibition, as the artists use painting, poetry, language and sound to unfold their own histories and memories, as well as those held within Sharjah,” said Dr Kholeif.
Turner Prize–winning artist Lubaina Himid (b. 1954, Zanzibar) is known for her innovative approach to painting as well as installation and writing, often depicting overlooked scenes of everyday life. One of the preeminent artists of the British Black Art Movement in the 1980s, Himid has been pivotal to the ongoing expression and recognition of the Black experience and women’s creativity within the UK. Magda Stawarska (b. 1976, Poland) explores memory through a practice that encompasses sound, performance, moving image and photography, created from a process of ‘inner listening’ which involves observing and responding to cities in dialogue with their inhabitants. The artists began collaborating nearly two decades ago; in the years since, Stawarska has created soundtracks for several of Himid’s installations and Himid has performed in some of Stawarska’s sound projects. Their combined practices come together in their deep respect for the medium of sound and their respective explorations of humanity and its histories.
At the heart of the exhibition is a newly imagined presentation of Zanzibar (1998–2023), a series of paintings by Himid that recount several stages of her lifelong journeys of return, including her migration from Zanzibar to the UK and back. In this reimagining, Zanzibar is transformed into a multisensory installation, situating Himid’s paintings within Stawarska’s new sonic environment, which invites visitors to look, listen, linger and resurface their own memories.
A major collaborative work is Plan B: A Libretto (2023), a newly commissioned 4-channel sound installation that responds to Himid’s acclaimed Plan B painting series from the late 1990s is presented here in a purpose built scenography. Depicting empty buildings in the seaside town of St. Ives, Himid’s original paintings capture feelings of danger and abandonment, with some of the works incorporating first-person narratives of escape and exile. The new installation features four paintings from the series alongside a libretto created by Himid and Stawarska that adapts the text from these paintings into the Egyptian vernacular Arabic of the coastal city of Alexandria. Echoing the paintings’ evocation of displacement, this once widely used dialect—much like Alexandria’s coastline—has been subject to multiple forms of appearance and disappearance.
Another of the commissioned works is Lost and Found (2023), an installation by Stawarska (based on a previous collaboration with Himid) that includes photography of various sites in Sharjah and written texts gathered from Sharjah community members, resulting in a dialogue between Stawarska’s work and the people who live in the city—a shared experience of time, place and movement.
Composed over several years, the new mixed-media installation Secret Study (2023) was produced by Himid specifically for the exhibition. It consists of numerous items from Himid's private collection of personal artworks (by herself and others), alongside archival material, mementoes and more. The installation ventures into the interior realm of the artist's inner world, displaying heirlooms and emblems that provide Himid with comfort and inspiration as well as pieces of a private history that offer a rare insight into the artist behind the work itself.
Many works in Plaited Time / Deep Water reference Sharjah’s natural and built environment, using maritime motifs and local materials, including found carts and reclaimed wood. The exhibition also explores other frequent themes for Himid and Stawarska, including history, memory, migration and the many manifestations of language.
Lubaina Himid: Winner of the 2017 Turner Prize, artist, curator and educator Lubaina Himid (b. 1954, Zanzibar) has carved a unique path in art by challenging the boundaries of painting and expanding its possibilities. Initially trained in theatre design and later in cultural history, Himid evinces a profound interest in the opera in her work and offers a fresh perspective on the historically male-dominated field of painting. Her work breathes life into imagined figures, animated in everyday objects such as carts, drawers and doors or in painted interiors and seascapes. These meticulously crafted scenes invite viewers into the hidden realms and existences of individuals overlooked by historical narratives. Himid's work is widely considered a cornerstone of the British Black Movement in the 1980s. Spanning paintings, installations, exhibition making, sound and writing, her practice challenges the historical erasure of the African diaspora's contributions. Her singular voice, a beacon in the British and international cultural landscape, posits new frames of artistic imagination. Himid’s work has been shown in solo shows at a number of institutions, and her work is held in public collections at institutions such as the National Museums Liverpool; Tate; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; British Council Collection; Arts Council Collection; UK Government Art Collection; Birmingham Museums, UK; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, UK and Wolverhampton Museum, UK. Himid has also presented work at Sharjah Biennial 14 and 15 (2019, 2023).
Magda Stawarska: For nearly two decades, the UK-based artist Magda Stawarska (b. 1976, Poland) has explored the threshold of memory, the sanctioned shape of history and the active experience of listening. Through sound and performance, moving image, photography, painting and printmaking, she unfolds overlooked and contested narratives of the past through her practice of ‘inner listening’. Stawarska’s distinct approach to artmaking often begins with explorations of cities. Traversing self-directed routes, she has often been compared to a flâneur—moving freely through each site, cultivating a rhythmic score that reveals a densely layered urban topography. These situated scenes become the basis for a distinct form of language—one of conjured imaginaries. Stawarska and her carefully chosen collaborators unbuckle the seams of the aural landscape, using personal reflection and language to create installations that constellate active feelings.