Meet the Artist

Uman releases Valentine, 2024, a new edition with Artspace and Independent Art Fair

Uman releases Valentine, 2024, a new edition with Artspace and Independent Art Fair
Uman - Valentine, 2024 (detail) - photography Garrett Carroll

“Some of my brightest, most colorful paintings come from a place of intense emotion, and some of the figures that live in my paintings can be hard to trace, but they are there,” Uman tells Artspace from her studio in rural upstate New York.

The Somalia-born, Kenya-raised artist is known for her kaleidoscopic use of color, informed by the cross-cultural environments of her East African childhood. 

Uman emigrated to Denmark as a teenager and later to New York as a young adult, where she now lives and works. Her early experiences have inspired an energetic and intuitive practice that straddles abstraction and figuration and contemplates both the physical and spiritual with a love for the natural world.

Her process has been described as the cumulative layering of colorful acrylic paint over oil and pastel. (You can read more about it here).

“Color is very important,” she says. “Some of the colors I use remind me of what women used to dress like back in Somalia. I grew up with colorful women, a colorful culture. East African and Somali people love color more than anything. I’ve kept that in me, living here in the West, and I’m using that in my work to tell a story.”

That story continues with the release of an Artspace, Phaidon and Independent limited edition silkscreen print by the artist this month.


Uman in her studio - photograph by Luigi Cazzaniga

Entitled Valentine, 2024, the edition of 35 signed prints plus 3 APs features a 26 color silkscreen print with gold leaf elements on Coventry Rag paper (22 x 16 ½ inches).

Each edition, generously hand-embellished by Uman, is emblematic, vibrant and characteristic of the artist’s work, and each is signed and numbered by her. Edition price is $2850 framed. A portion of the proceeds from the print will be donated to support White Columns, New York.

Valentine, 2024 will debut at the Independent Art Fair in New York this month (May). The edition’s presence at the fair marks the second iteration of a collaborative program with Artspace, Phaidon, and Independent, celebrating contemporary artists of distinction. The program was inaugurated by the commission of Jameson Green’s Cain and Abel in 2023.

Uman was the subject of a presentation with Nicola Vassell Gallery, at Independent in 2022. Her work has inspired the admiration of critics at publications including The New York Times, the New Yorker, and CNN.

Her forthcoming exhibitions include The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut; Hessel Museum, Bard College, New York; Le Consortium, Dijon; and Nicola Vassell Gallery, New York.

On the eve of Valentine, 2024’s release, Uman answered a few questions about the edition. Once you’ve read her thoughts take a closer look at Valentine, 2024 here: 

Tell us a bit about the edition and the original artwork from which the edition sprang. The original artwork was painted at my home in upstate New York, in 2022, part of a group of three. I tend to make smaller paintings at home. This group was about four feet tall. The paintings were made outside in the sun with spray paint and acrylic, and finished in my studio with oil stick.

The edition was screen printed by Du-Good Press, who Artspace introduced me to. They took great care to make it true to the original work. It looks just like a painting!


UMAN - Valentine, 2024

Photography Garrett Carroll

You are hand embellishing each edition, what is the thought process behind these embellishments? I plan on adding unique markings to each print. I'll be signing and embellishing the prints with the same type of oil stick that was used for the original painting. 

What’s the meaning behind the title, ValentineValentine is my fifteen-year-old cat, who I've so far never titled a painting after. I thought this was an appropriate time to give him one. My animals appear in and influence much of my work.


 UMAN - Valentine, 2024 

Photography Garrett Carroll 

The use of color in your work is incredibly important, can you tell us what it means to you? I associate color with life. What color means to me is joy, pain, and beauty. I just use my intuition.

You’ve spoken about the nature surrounding your studio; how did nature inspire this particular work, and the work you are currently creating? Nature influences everything, just like the crickets and toads that like to make their way into my studio. Nature informs everything I do. I was recently walking in the forest, it was grey and cold, and I came upon a pop of color, yellow daffodils in the middle of last year's fallen leaves. Spring is finally here.


UMAN - Valentine, 2024  

Photography Garrett Carroll 

What do you remember of your peripatetic childhood and how do you think those experiences feed into the art you make today? It was exciting to move around as a child. Through memory, through dreams, I'm able to relive these experiences. For most of my adult life, I've lived in New York, but my dreams and memories feed into my art.

You use acrylic, oil, and pastel to create your works, how does this mix work for you and why do you employ it? They are my tools. Each has their own unique texture. It works for me.


UMAN - Valentine, 2024

 Photography Garrett Carroll

You have an unusual relationship with the conventional definition of portraiture, what do you see of yourself in the paintings that others sometimes do not? I look at all of my paintings as self-portraits. Some are quite obvious, and some are not. I do see myself in these paintings, I put myself into everything I make. Some of my brightest, most colorful paintings, come from a place of intense emotion, and some of the figures that live in my paintings can be hard to trace, but they are there.


UMAN - Valentine, 2024

Photography Garrett Carroll


Do you consider editions as part of your practice and what was the experience of making this one like? This is the second edition I've worked on. The first was for the 2023 White Columns print portfolio. I did love the experience of working with Artspace and Du-Good Press on this edition and hope to continue making editions in the future.

Take a closer look at Valentine, 2024 here.


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