Beneath the Surface, Veronica Simpson, Studio International [7/2/2023]Marilena Pateraki
This show brings together six artists, including Heidi Bucher, Lubaina Himid and Shirazeh Houshiary, using water as a motif by which to view history, culture and identity
Lehmann Maupin, London
18 January – 4 March 2023
Beneath the Surface is a show about water, but it uses this medium of refreshment and hydration as a lens through which multiple perspectives on history, culture and identity can be viewed. Foregrounding black culture and history – though not exclusively – it is curated by Lehmann Maupin’s London senior director, Isabella Icoz, who has cherry-picked work from six artists, some represented by the gallery but some not, to interrogate issues of trade, slavery, oppression, servitude, exclusion and inclusion. Here is a rich smörgåsbord of textures, issues, perspectives and techniques from across the globe and the last century: Heidi Bucher (1926-93, Switzerland), Alex Gardner (b1987, US), Lubaina Himid (b1954, Zanzibar), Shirazeh Houshiary (b1955, Iran), Araba Opoku (b1998, Accra, Ghana) and Calida Rawles (b1976, US).
There are works that do conjure water’s more immediate, splashy textures. Take Houshiary’s Styx (2018). It is a Rorschach blot of red, splitting the white of the canvas dead centre, bleeding outwards across its adjacent expanses; you cannot avoid the associations with bloodstains – sanitary towels possibly – definitely leakage of vital fluids. As Icoz says, for Houshiary: “Water is very much the beginning or reference point for all her work. She mixes pigmented water and almost floods the canvas, then washes the canvas, and what you’re seeing is the residue of pigment.” These traces of pigment have double or triple meanings, evoking not just what is present but what has been washed away, linking to memory, history, cultural practices. As with all her work, it repays closer, more patient inspection. Here, at the crimson heart of the painting, she has written in tiny Arabic script a labyrinth of letters spelling out the words “I am. I am not”, over and over, triggering references to blood’s vital presence at birth and death; not to mention issues of whose is spilled and when and how.
Η συνέχεια εδώ.