Artists’ Artists: Part Four

Shawanda Corbett, Lubaina Himid, Sohrab Hura, Liz Johnson Artur, David Musgrave, Julian Stair and Nicola Tyson select works by some of their favourite artists 

in Frieze Masters , Influences | 28 OCT 20

Shawanda Corbett nominates Elizabeth Catlett’s Madonna (1982)

For you, my child, anything

Shelter may not be kneeled and kneeled on top of you

And shelter may not be searched they searched on you

And suppose shelter may not be reached behind they reached behind me you

And suppose could oppose the blue shaped or black shaped with silver or brass or clothed

They took shelter and opposed what is reached behind shelter and returned to mine.

Shawanda Corbett is an artist who lives in Oxford, UK. In 2020, she was awarded a Turner Bursary and had a solo show at Corvi-Mora, London, UK. Her work is on view in ‘Friends and Friends of Friends’ at Schlossmuseum Linz, Austria, until 6 January 2021.

Agnes Martin, Night Sea, 1963, oil, crayon and gold leaf on linen, 1.8 × 1.8 m. Courtesy: © Estate of Agnes Martin, Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and DACS, London; photograph: Katherine Du Tiel

Lubaina Himid nominates Agnes Martin, Night Sea (1963)

I adore sea paintings and love the way painters, over hundreds of years, compete with each other to produce the deepest, most dramatic, watery, splashy, salty expanses. Night Sea by Agnes Martin makes you squint into the darkness from your position on deck, hoping that someone on board knows how to follow the stars and sail in the right direction.

Climb inside it and attempt to swim before it envelops you and you are lost forever.

Lubaina Himid is an artist who lives in Preston, UK. Her collaboration with Magda Stawarska-Beavan is on view in ‘Risquons-Tout’, Wiels, Brussels, Belgium, until 10 January 2021. In 2021, she will have a solo exhibition at Tate Modern, London, UK.


Rummana Hussain, Living on the Margins, 1995, performance documentation, National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. Courtesy: Talwar Gallery, New York/ New Delhi

Sohrab Hura nominates Rummana Hussain’s Living on the Margins (1995)

I have never experienced Rummana Hussain’s works or performances in person. She passed away before I turned 18, in 1999, and art was the last thing on my mind at the time. I remember when I had just started to teach myself photography, I read about her performance Living on the Margins and looked at a still from it of her holding a halved papaya in her hands with her mouth gaping open: her hair looked dishevelled and I imagined she had had a recent catharsis. I also remember having read about how the Babri Masjid demolition had completely changed her life and work. In 1992, when I was barely 11, the Babri Masjid mosque was illegally demolished by Hindu supremacists. As kids, we were told it was the work of fringe elements, even though those words felt laced with hidden satisfaction. That event and others inspired by it have shaped my generation, while today that fringe has revealed itself as the mainstream. Over the years, I would occasionally stumble upon Hussain’s name and I would feel the dissatisfied familiarity that comes with only having read about an artist or a work. When I started making work in 2005, I honestly believed that art could make a difference in this world but today, with the suppression of dissent and the rewriting of various histories within the region, I see my role as simply marking history in my own way with a hope that it might afford a small counterpoint to the larger revisionism at work. Now, more than ever, when days feel too dark, I find myself once again imagining Hussain and her works, wondering how she might embody this moment and where she might drop the political anchor. That dissatisfied familiarity continues to nag, but the urgency of her existence shines through.

Sohrab Hura is a photographer and member of Magnun Photos. He lives in New Delhi, India. His work is currently on view in ‘New Photography 2020’, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA. His solo exhibition at Experimenter, Kolkata, India, will run from 7 November to 2 January 2021. In 2021, his work will be included in the Liverpool Biennial. His latest book is The Levee (2020).


Eugène Atget, Window, Corset Shop, 1912, gelatin silver print, 25 × 20 cm. Courtesy: Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence

Liz Johnson Artur nominates Eugène Atget, Shop Window (1890)

... in a photograph ... I like a gentle eye ... I like when the eye wants to preserve ... not judge nor predict ... for me a gentle eye is a loving eye ... I feel this every time I go back and look at Eugène Atget’s photographs ... his work and his way of working are a true inspiration to me ... 

Liz Johnson Artur is an artist who lives in London, UK. In 2019, she had solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA, South London Gallery and CAM St. Louis, USA. She is a recipient of a 2020 Turner Bursary. In April 2021, she will have a solo exhibition at Foam Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Samuel Beckett, Film, 1965, film still. Courtesy: Vimeo

David Musgrave nominates Samuel Beckett’s Film (1965 & 1979)

I first saw Film as a student, on a VHS tape borrowed from the college library. It was a second generation copy of the later Max Wall version, directed without Samuel Beckett’s scrutiny. I found it disturbingly modular, without flow, as though bolted together from a set of moving objects. It was also indelible. A greenish POV shot of Wall’s feet caught in a rope, perhaps misremembered, is always playing in my head somewhere. I watched the 1965 Buster Keaton original, micromanaged by Beckett, much later. The camera (E) harasses Keaton (O), at an angle no greater than 45 degrees from the middle of his back, as he scuttles along a wall, pathetically fails to put out a cat and a dog, and tears up some family photographs, fretfully keeping his face out of shot until the very end. Film’s philosophical touchstone is Bishop Berkeley, for whom vectors of perception create the armature of consciousness. E = Eye, O = Object. Wall/Keaton is both E and O, plagued by the unrelenting possibility of self-perception. Invasive, inescapable surveillance is nothing new, but now that it’s farmed out to techno-corporate exobrains, O’s predicament appears reassuringly concrete. Film is a rootless thing, Beckett’s only moving-image work. A theatre commission with the conceptual unity of a video installation, it feels like it belongs to a genre of one. Thanks to its obsessive framing of imaged objects, its embedding of a precise psychic scenario in a handful of visible things, its fingerprints are all over the work I make.   

David Musgrave is an artist who lives in London, UK. In 2020, he had an exhibition with Simon Ling at Greengrassi, London, and his work was included in ‘Hooks & Claws’, Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich, Switzerland. His novel Lambda will be published by Europa Editions in 2021.


Hans Coper, Cycladic Arrow Form on Black Cylindrical Base, 1973–74. Courtesy: © Estate of Hans Coper and Sainsbury Centre, Norwich

Julian Stair nominates Hans Coper’s Cycladic Arrow Form on Black Cylindrical Base (1973–74)

Hans Coper arrived as a German émigré in London in 1939 and began his career by making war-time ceramic buttons with Wiener Werkstätte-trained Lucie Rie. From these humble beginnings, he went on to change the course of British ceramic history. Coper offered an alternative vision to the craft revivalism of Bernard Leach with a modernist sensibility that was characterized by an emphasis on pure form. Whether producing monumental pieces for Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral, designing sinks for industrial manufacture or making collaged vessels, he imbued his work with a formal cohesion that built on the artistic legacy of Constantin Brâncuși, Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti. However, far from abandoning the key tenets of pottery, Coper emphasized its haptic and anthropomorphic properties. Moreover, his vessels were always able to contain: it was a revelation to see how Rie used Coper’s last series from the 1970s of ‘Cycladic’ forms for displaying grasses when I visited her studio in 1982, and to be handed a slice of Viennese marbled cake on a stoneware plate that she and Coper had made together. Here were pots of substance that could exist in both a ‘white-cube’ space and the domestic sphere. But the true genius of Coper’s work was that, unconcerned by the ideology of his ceramic peers and a hierarchal art world, he took one of the oldest artistic genres, explored it with a single-minded rigour, and in the process showed that pottery’s multi-modality was more than able to encompass the concerns of the modern day.

Julian Stair is an artist who lives in London, UK. In 2020, he had a solo exhibition with Rob Barnard at the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, Richmond, USA. In 2021, he will have a three-person show – with Barnard and Robert Burnier – at Corvi-Mora, London.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #132, 1984, chromogenic colour print, 1.9 × 1.2 m. Courtesy: © Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York

Nicola Tyson nominates Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #132 (1984)

I could have picked any of Cindy Sherman’s photos from 1983–87. I was a painting student in London during this time, studying dense feminist theory, burdened by male-dominated art history yet trying to work out how to join the contemporary argument nevertheless. Sherman’s earlier black and white ‘Untitled Film Stills’ (1977–80) had been interesting to me, but these mid-’80s colour images took things to a completely other level. Looking at them now still gives me the thrill of recognition and disorientation you get when an artwork seems to talk to you directly, answering so many needs and questions and presenting exciting new possibilities.

What Sherman’s humorous and disturbing images embodied for me was uncompromising female creative authority. Not an oblique or didactic commentary, dependent on existing media images of women by men, but the hilarious head fuck of total anarchic invention that I craved. Anarchic in both content and technique, for she eschewed glossy technical skill and instead combined a kind of wilful amateurism with a sophisticated grasp of the fundamental issues regarding questions like: what even is a woman and, by extension, a woman artist? Further, how could we represent that – or be it – this late in the game, a game that we women were never invited to join in the first place?

Her work is one of the reasons I moved to New York in 1989. She busted open an imaginative space for me that simply equalled freedom and provided a completely new set of coordinates from within which I still work today.

Nicola Tyson is an artist who lives in New York, USA. In 2020, she had a solo show at Petzel Gallery, New York. In May 2021, she will have a solo exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, London, UK. Her work is on view in ‘100 Drawings from Now’, the Drawing Center, New York, until 17 January 2021.

Main image: Elizabeth Catlett, Madonna, 1982, lithograph. Courtesy: © Catlett Mora Family Trust/VAGA at ARS, New York, and DACS, London