Blackpaint 698 – Salt on the Saveloy; Lubaina Himid


I try to read a bit of the bible every day and have been doing so for years. The proper bible that is; the Authorised King James version with the proper poetry, not that homogenised stuff they use in churches now and have been since the late 50s or early 60s or whenever it was. I’m probably on my third circuit now – my paperback edition has Old and New Testament and the Old, but not the New Apocrypha.

I’m not a believer, far from it, but I love the prose and the poetry, the nostalgia and the great stories. I’ve just finished Esther, with its story of how she and Mordecai turned the tables on Hammam and had him and his ten sons hanged (and 75,000 other enemies massacred), for plotting the massacre of the Jews. That’s Hamman ,hanging, in Michelangelo’s version above. None of that New Testament stuff about forgiving enemies or turning the other cheek… although I love that different fanaticism too, portrayed best in Pasolini’s “Gospel According to Matthew” and maybe Emmanuel Carrere’s “The Kingdom”, dealing with the Acts and the Epistles of Paul.

But currently, I’m on Job and savouring the poetry there and I find two verses which have an immediate resonance for me: “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job, 5,7) – and “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? And is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Job 6,6).

The first of these is so arresting, visual and economical. The second is more personal; it was my darts night last night, as always involving quite heavy drinking; on my way home, I stopped at the chip shop as always, for my saveloy and chips. The lady put loads of salt and vinegar on the chips as I requested but added the saveloy (and a sausage) after – hence no salt on them. I discovered that “that which is unsavoury” can be eaten without salt – but your mouth is really dry afterwards and the disappointment is huge. And no, without salt, there is no taste in the white of an egg.

Lubaina Himid – Tate Modern until 3rd July 2022

Big, clean, colourful, static assemblages of black people in somewhat mystifying scenarios like the one above, make up most of this exhibition. There are also sound exhibits by Himid and Magda Stawarska – Beavan and long linear wall sculptures, mostly of wood but interspersed with objects, of which musical instruments – I spotted a banjo – were a frequent element.

I remember this one is called “The Pulley” (see the upper part of the picture)

The booklet that goes with the exhibition, and the various wall plaques, explain that Himid is interested in the architecture, in a big sense, of our surroundings – not only buildings, but rooms, furniture , decor, appliances, clothes – the implication being that there is a mismatch, an ill fitting between the people and their manufactured surroundings, in every sense of the word. I guess the implication is that this is perhaps more true for African and Afro – Caribbean people, but wouldn’t wish to pursue this into deep waters. The mismatch is explicit as far as women are concerned, though – as the booklet says: “What kind of buildings do women want to live and work in? Has anyone ever asked us?”

Frequently, it is an ocean that appears through the windows of these sparse rooms full of faintly bewildered, uncertain groups. The bird – headed woman in the above painting calls attention to the strong surrealist streak in these works; I’m reminded a little of Paul Delvaux (although no nudity, I think) and de Chirico. A bit fanciful this, but maybe even Della Francesca (the statue-like poses, the stillness, the way they tend to look out or away from each other.

I like this one; should be titled “The Blancmange”, but it’s not. Now there’s a madeleine moment for me – does anyone still make such things? My mother had a blancmange mould in the shape of a rabbit and we had it for afters frequently – until Instant Whip was invented. However, back to art….

Does anyone else get Picasso from this one? Those blimpish female figures running along a Mediterranean beach?

I had to include this – court scene? Historical drawing room? It’s a tableau of life-size cut outs, like a giant magic puppet theatre.

So that’s an introduction, and probably a poor and superficial one, to this exhibition. It was better than I expected, but then I have rather a strong aversion to Himid, after what I thought was a graceless speech when she won the Turner prize a couple of years back – the bit where she said it had been a long time coming – the implication (maybe she stated it openly, can’t remember) being that she should have got it long before but being a woman, and a black woman, had prevented that. Don’t know if that’s true, but it’s not for her to say, in my opinion.

Only one new picture to put up of mine:

Phil Twice, on rough old wet cardboard

Blackpaint, February 5th 2021

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3 Responses to “Blackpaint 698 – Salt on the Saveloy; Lubaina Himid”

  1. Laurie Merrifield Says:

    Hi Chris,
    You are on it as always, the Picasso running women, spot on. I love his classical period in the1930’s, lyrical and exuberant. So easy on the eye, and a genuine male celebration of the female form, dangerous ground and words in these times now, but still a great image.

    • blackpaint Says:

      Hi Laurie
      Good to hear from you as always. Agree on Picasso although my all time favourite is Night Fishing in Antibes which I think is 1947 (not sure). I know some women have problems with the so called male gaze; I go to life drawing every week though and I guess most of my women classmates would regard themselves as feminist and yet they happily draw and paint naked women and men of all ages shapes and sizes showing every sign of enjoyment and appreciation. Models too have issues but with pay and heating rather than male gaze. Keep reading please!

  2. Laurie Merrifield Says:

    Hello Chris,
    I hope you are well,

    I’ve realised how important your blog is, in bringing to the attention certain attributes of art, particularly the underpinning art of drawing, for example your notes about R B Kitaj, and that drawing of a seated woman’s back (Sandra?) 2012/5/.

    You mentioning your life drawing classes too reminded me of how on almost every ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ program on Sky, the artists are glancing repeatedly not at the model, but at a digital image on a smart phone or tablet. No essential parallax to observe the form available with this view of the model, but I wonder what your thoughts are on this corrupting way of condensing the long look into a frozen snapshot?

    Kindest regards
    Laurie

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