Maggi Hambling: War Requiem and Aftermath
The Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand WC2R 2LS
The thematic starting point of the exhibition is Hambling’s site-specific installation War Requiem, shown at ‘SNAP’ (Art at the Aldeburgh Festival) in the summer of 2013 to wide critical acclaim. This work is documented in video form, serving as an overture to a new series of paintings which extend the core themes of War Requiem – victimhood, violence, and the imagination. Anonymous portraits and ravaged battlefields emerge as spectral visions out of Hambling’s charged and turbulent paintwork, suffused by Indian yellow pigment that simultaneously evokes fanfare and fire.
Also exhibited will be a condensed retrospective of earlier works dating from the early 1980s, when Hambling came to prominence as the National Gallery’s first Artist in Residence. The drawings, paintings and sculptures reflect the eclectic manifestations of war and death in her art, whilst also revealing other underlying leitmotifs such as remembrance and loss. Included are the paintings Gulf women prepare for war and Man with Gun, prompted by specific outbreaks of violence or terrorism, they reflect international conflict that has ensued in subsequent years and continues to rage into the present.
You Are the Sea (2012) will be installed, including a single canvas from the Wall of Water series and a sound piece arising from her 2009 poem of the same title. The work has its origins in Hambling’s experience of the sounds of trapped sea water, surging and cascading in a vibrant allegory of life and death, creation and annihilation.
The culmination of the exhibition will be Hambling’s new series of sculptures, collectively entitled Aftermath. These totemic objects in painted bronze began as found pieces of dead wood. Out of gnarled natural forms, Hambling has coaxed the presence of imaginary beings. Alternately animal and human, familiar and other worldly, the sculptures emanate a variety of moods and art historical resonance from Surrealism to medieval polychromy. The strange creatures of Aftermath conflate the forms of grave portraits, gargoyles and relics to create vital contemporary works of sculpture.
During the exhibition, Hambling will be working with a number of academics across King’s College London, whose work in facial reconstruction and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has real resonance in her work. These collaborations will form the basis of a series of talks, debates, and events, details of which will be announced in the coming months.
Over a five decade career, Maggi Hambling has become one of Britain’s most distinguished artists, consistently irreverent and controversial. She has exhibited extensively; major solo exhibitions include the National Portrait Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut and, most recently, her return to the National Gallery, London in 2014 for her exhibition Maggi Hambling : Walls of Water. In 2003 Hambling’s sculpture Scallop was installed on Aldeburgh Beach in celebration of Benjamin Britten; other public works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998), the Brixton Heron (2010), and The Winchester Tapestries (2013).
War Requiem & Aftermath is accompanied by an extensive and comprehensively illustrated new book on the artist authored by James Cahill.