Meet the artists giving a new lease of life to this enduringly popular art form
It only happens once in a while. And Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, reckons it’s happening now. Britain is in an artistic hot streak. And it’s all about painting. Next week, Rugoff opens Mixing It Up at the Hayward, a show featuring 31 painters, all working in Britain, many in London. “The UK has, I don’t know, one of the three best painting scenes in the world right now,” Rugoff says. “It’s really in a leading place internationally.”…
…Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is another artist who grapples with identity through paint. Born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993, she later lived in South Africa before coming to the UK. Her paintings, rich in colour, sometimes feature self-portraits or depict family members, set within complex spaces, often with fragments of interiors, abstract passages and repeated silkscreen images.
“As an artist, you have to allow yourself to experience what it is you’re doing, which is, for me, putting paint on the surface, or using colour – the basic elements and forms,” she says. “Sometimes, I have felt that I forgot that a little bit; I’m focusing too much on wanting to be an artist who is saying a particular thing, wanting to maybe deal with a political subject, how the work is framed – for example the work being about displacement or some parts having to do with being queer. Those things are important, because they are part of me.”
She recalls that the American abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler was asked what it’s like to be a woman painter. Her answer: “The first thing I’m dealing with is just being a painter.” Hwami adds: “You can’t escape identity, class and race: I don’t know what it’s like to be a Black painter, I’m just a person who exists who is Black and has these experiences that maybe other people don’t have. But I’m dealing with painting. It’s something I’m trying to understand myself.”
Image: Portrait of Kudzanai-Violet Hwami
Photo © Jo Metson Scott