Lubaina Himid, Venetian Maps (Kings), 1997
Beneath the Surface
Jan 18 – Mar 4, 2023
Lehmann Maupin
London, UK

Beneath the Surface, a group show curated by Lehmann Maupin Senior Director Isabella Icoz, brings together the work of Heidi Bucher, Alex Gardner, Lubaina Himid, Shirazeh Houshiary, Araba Opoku, and Calida Rawles – six artists who engage water as medium, metaphor, and artistic method.

For many of the artists in Beneath the Surface, water is a vehicle for the act of making, and the natural properties and movement of water define their processes and take shape on the canvas. For others, the presence of water creates metaphorical or literal opportunities for the exploration of cultural and personal histories, and rendering aquatic space becomes a means of constructing or deconstructing various identities. Across the exhibition, paint is diluted, canvases flooded, and brushes soaked; images are reflected, bodies submerged, and rivers forged. As a whole, the exhibition asks the viewer to consider water beyond the everyday, positioning it instead as a lens through which to consider these works. The artists in Beneath the Surface call attention to water as a life force, a resource, an inhabitable space, and a functional material.

Signature works by Alex Gardner, Lubaina Himid, and Calida Rawles depict images of water in order to explore the construction of identity and its intersection with history. In her most recent pastel works, Rawles continues her investigation of water as both a multifaceted physical material and a historically charged space for Black bodies.

Heidi Bucher, Shirazeh Houshiary, and Araba Opoku employ water as integral to their medium or process of making, rendering images of water and capturing its effects. In her 1980s series Wasserzeichnung / Water drawings, Bucher uses gestural brushstrokes in watercolor and gouache to create “water still lifes.”

Together, the artists in Beneath the Surface seek to locate new and complex definitions of water, full of material and conceptual contradictions. They use water to image, mimic, and interrogate itself, contextualizing it as a repository of history, a crucial life-source plagued by inequitable access, and a vital material for creative production. Above all, the exhibition pursues the utopian potential offered by water; Beneath the Surface gestures towards a world where all histories are confronted, identities embraced, and resources shared.