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Zarina Bhimji - Biography

* 1963 Mbarara, Uganda. Lives in London, United Kingdom.

Bhimji trained in London at Goldsmiths College (1983–86) and The Slade School of Fine Art (1987–89). Of Asian ancestry, she moved with her family to England as a child, following the expulsion of Asian-Ugandans by the Idi Amin regime in the early 1970s. She was an active participant in the black British art moment of the 1980s.

A photographer and filmmaker, Bhimji uses poetic bodily and architectural imagery, as well as the landscape, to explore history, memory and the psycho-geography, especially of postcolonial Africa and Europe. Her architectural spaces often evince feelings of desolation and pathos, even as they also reveal suppressed histories of violence inscribed on walls, floors, or in the abandoned furniture coated with grime and dust, or in smashed, cob-webbed windows. The power of Bhimji's work lies in its stunning, intensely seductive pictoriality, seamlessly combined with the tragic, melancholic sadness of troubled histories. While the human body was present in the form of unsentimental, lifeless objects in her Collection of Charing Cross Hospital (1995), it is often hauntingly absent in the bare rooms, dilapidated houses, run-down tenements and abandoned factories in Love (1998–2006), Waiting (2007) and other works. Her masterpiece, the powerful Out of Blue (2002), commissioned for Documenta 11, is a poetic meditation on the human condition through the contemplation of serene landscapes and interior spaces bearing marks of past violence, and thus simultaneously evokes the sublime as well as the horrific violence emblematized no less by the genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda in the 1990s.

A fierce advocate of the poetic image, Bhimji nevertheless insistently imposes on her pictures and films an ineluctable sense of tragic wonder, with the result that they become not just works of art, but also archives of modernity's dark moments, and humanity's incomplete, perhaps even impossible, visions of socio-political progress.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

Zarina Bhimji, The Art Institute of Chicago (2009); Zarina Bhimji, Archive Season, Iniva – Institute of International Visual Arts, London (2004); Zarina Bhimji/MATRIX 150, Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2003); Art Now: Zarina Bhimji, Tate Britain, London (2003); Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge (1995); I Will Always Be Here, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (1992); The Slade School of Fine Art, University of London (1989).


Selected Group Exhibitions:

Capturing Time, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2009); Turner Prize 2007, Tate Liverpool (2007); How to Improve the World: 60 Years of British Art, Hayward Gallery, London (2006); Zones of Contact, 15th Biennale of Sydney (2006); Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, ICP – International Center of Photography, New York (2006); 50 Jahre Documenta 1955–2005, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2005); British Art Show 6, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2005); Experiments with Truth, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2004); Stranger Than Fiction, Leeds City Art Gallery (2004); In Our Time: Works from the Moderna Museet Collection, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2003); 8th Istanbul Biennial (2003); Fault Lines, 50th Venice Biennial (2003); Documenta 11, Kassel (2002); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Haus der Kulturen der Welt/Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/MoMA, New York (2001–2002); The Quick and the Dead: Artists and Anatomy, Hayward Gallery, London (1997); no place (like home), Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis (1997), Public Relations, Stadthaus Ulm (1997); Life's Little Necessities, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997); British Contemporary Photography, NGBK – Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin (1997); Out of India, Queens Museum of Art, New York (1997); In/Sight: African Photography, 1940–Present, Guggenheim Museum, New York (1996); The Impossible Science of Being, The Photographers' Gallery, London (1995); Revir/Territory, Kulturhuset, Stockholm (1994); Iniva – Institute of International Visual Arts, Inauguration Exhibition, London (1994); Critical Decade, Modern Art Oxford (1992); Selections 5, Biennial Exhibition from the Polaroid Collection, Photokina '90, Cologne (1990); Intimate Distance, The Photographers' Gallery, London (1990); Fabled Territories (New Asian Photography in Britain), Leeds City Art Gallery (1990); Shocks to the System: '90s Political Art, Arts Council Collection, South Bank Centre, London (1990); Whitechapel Open, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1989); Towards a Bigger Picture, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1989); The Essential Black Art, Chisenhale Gallery, London (1988); Black Women Photographers, Camden Arts Centre, London (1987); From Two Worlds, Whitechapel Gallery, London (1986); Mirror Reflecting Darkly, Brixton Art Gallery, London (1986); Artists Against Apartheid, South Bank Centre, London (1985).

Major Public Collections:

Kadist Art Foundation Collection, Paris; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Leicester Museum and Art Gallery; South London Gallery, London; The Tate, London; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; Polaroid International Collection, Offenbach; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Arts Council Collection.

Selected Awards:

ICP Infinity Award, New York (2003); DAAD, Artist-in-Residence, Berlin (2002–2003); London Arts, Combined Arts Award (2001); The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists (1999); Visiting Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge (1993); Julian Sullivan Award, Slade School of Fine Art, London (1989); Coopers & Lybrand Award, Whitechapel 1989 Open, London (1989).

Selected Bibliography:

Janis Jeffries, "Midnight's Children: Salman Rushdie and the Translations of Hybridity in the Art Works of Zarina Bhimji, Hew Locke and Yinka Shonibare", in: Paul Sharrad/Anne Collett (eds.), Re-Inventing Textiles, Vol. 3, Postcolonialism and Creativity, Brighton 2001, pp. 1–15; Zarina Bhimji, "Imaging the Body: The Work of Zarina Bhimji", in: The Lancet, 355, 2000, p. 1377; Dewan Deepali, "Tender Metaphor: The Art of Zarina Bhimji", in: Gilane Tawadros/Sarah Campbell (eds.), Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes, London 2003, pp. 131–137; "Year of the Artist", N. Paradoxa, 8, 2001, pp. 38–39; Zarina Bhimji, Cambridge 1995.

© Press information of the organizer
© Photo: Haupt & Binder

Zarina Bhimji
Hamburger Bahnhof -
Museum for Contemporary Art

Invalidenstr. 50-51
10557 Berlin

Who Knows Tomorrow
A project by the National Gallery Berlin
4 June - 26 Sept. 2010

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