Wednesday 6 October 2021

Turner Prize-winning artist wins the annual Robson Orr TenTen Award

Professor Lubaina Himid creates new work to be displayed in Government buildings across the world

A Turner Prize-winning professor from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has won another prestigious art award.

The annual Robson Orr TenTen Award 2021 has been presented by the Government Art Collections (GAC) to UCLan’s Professor of Contemporary Art Lubaina Himid CBE.

The award was presented to Professor Himid, coinciding with the unveiling of her new work Old Boat, New Weather, at No 11 Downing Street by Julia Lopez MP, Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Penny Johnson CBE, Director of the Government Art Collection (GAC). Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr and Candida Gertler OBE, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Outset Contemporary Art Fund, also attended.

The Robson Orr TenTen Award is presented by the GAC with Outset Contemporary Art Fund and is sponsored by leading philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr. Every year a British artist is commissioned to create a unique, limited edition print to be shown in diplomatic buildings across the world. A small number are available for purchase through a collaboration with the pioneering philanthropic arts organisation Outset to raise funds for the GAC acquisition fund. The 10-year scheme was launched in 2018 with the first three awards given to Hurvin Anderson (2018), Tacita Dean (2019) and Yinka Shonibare (2020).

The traditional elements of painted seascapes are found in Old Boat, New Weather: the harbour, the impending storm and the boat itself are reinvented in Professor Himid’s screen print through archive photographic imagery and woven colour. The composition brings together familiar motifs in the UCLan scholar’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. Lubaina, 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 print 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 the colours step by step in 19 printed layers.

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