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Brilliant Ideas Episode #43: Maggi Hambling

Artist of Exuberant Energy of Life

Maggi Hambling set out to paint purely by accident. When she was 14 years old, she was required to take an art exam at school. She off-handedly painted a simple figure of a person, but then she began daydreaming and completely lost track of time. Hambling was not able to work any further on her painting so she submitted a very rough draft.

Three weeks later, she received the results of her test, and she was astounded. Hambling’s painting put her name at the top rank when she left it to nothing but her senses. Brilliant Ideas Episode #43, presented by Bloomberg and Hyundai Motor, features Maggie Hambling, a painter of extraordinary brush stroke instinct.

Unfurling Imagination of the Swirling Brush

Maggie Hambling defines art as a “strange business.” As previously mentioned, receiving the highest score on the art exam was an intriguing occurrence in itself. Of all the subject matters available to her, she is interested in figure painting. She is captivated by human vitality, and it naturally suits her signature brushstrokes and vibrant colors across the canvas.
Hambling is a famous portraitist with numerous works, but we can’t talk about her without mentioning her ‘Max Wall’ series (1981-1983) of the British actor of the same name. Wall, resting in his trademark pair of oversized boots, is depicted both as an actor and a clown. The subject matter of Hambling’s first oil painting was of a clown, which she believes most appropriately serves to depict absurdity of life. It was only natural that she painted Wall as a grinning clown with a hint of mockery.
Famous for her passion for figure painting, Hambling was appointed to create a memorial sculpture of the famous playwright, Oscar Wilde. Unlike a typical monument, <A Conversation with Oscar Wilde>(1998), installed in the center of London, features the author’s head rising from a sarcophagus. The sculpture’s surface bears such resemblance of the brush strokes of Hambling’s that one might think of it as one of her two dimensional paintings coming to life. This is, on all counts, Hambling's intention of bringing light to her ambiguous subject identities. Hambling as an artist is faithful to the philosophy that she would undertake a work after grasping the subject matter not only by individual characteristics but in perspective.

Another Source of Life, the Sea

Her steadfast interest in painting figures took an unforeseen shift to another subject, the sea. Hambling's response to an inquiry about this sudden change was simple. "The subject chose me."
The origin of this rather curious methodology goes back to November 30, 2002. The sea at Southwold so intensely captivated her that she even remembers the exact date. The artist was on the scene of a massive storm over the ocean that morning, and she had a sensation of her body being thrown into the deep blue waters. She lucidly experienced the exuberance of the sea raging with swirls of waves, which she recalls was almost “like having a conversation with it.”

Around 3 pm the same day, Hambling returned to her studio and asked herself, "What was I doing when I saw the ocean?" and portrayed what she vividly witnessed at the sea on the canvas she started earlier. This is the beginning of her work of the sea, and she has been painting it as her subject matter since then. Her recent exhibition <Walls of Water> at the National Gallery in England was filled with works portraying the sea. Her nine new works were released at this exhibition which captured the moments waves continue to soar and disintegrate. Blended with styles of abstract and composition, these canvases were more expansive in scale compared to her original works years before, and their overwhelming immenseness and interweaving gray and green represent the sea’s nature between animation and destruction.
She is captivated by and recreates eccentric and powerful things so much that she calls herself an alien. After decades of her first painting, Maggi Hambling continues to manifest strong energy into her work, and one may only wonder how much further her passion will flourish like the charging waves soar. ■ with ARTINPOST

  • <Edge I> 2014

    Oil on canvas 78×89inches Copyright Maggi Hambling, Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London

    <Edge I> 2014 Oil on canvas 78×89inches Copyright Maggi Hambling, Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London
  • <Edge IV> 2015-16

    Oil on canvas 36×48inches Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London

    <Edge IV> 2015-16 Oil on canvas 36×48inches Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London
  • <Hamlet> 2015

    Oil on canvas 67×48inches Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London

    <Hamlet> 2015 Oil on canvas 67×48inches Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London
  • <Politician> 2015

    Painted bronze Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

    <Politician> 2015 Painted bronze Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
  • <Politician> 2015

    Painted bronze Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

    <Politician> 2015 Painted bronze Copyright Maggi Hambling Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Profile

The work in the middle of London, <A Conversation with Oscar Wilde>(1998) was made to honor the British playwriter Oscar Wilde. As Wilde is a playwright beloved by the public, there was a lot of interest in who would be the artist to handle this project. Finally, the glory went to one of the most important British artists, Maggi Hambling. She deals with various medium; public sculpture, painting, printing, installation, but the works that represent her are drawings and portraits. Many of Hambling's portrait works are at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Born in 1948, Maggi Hambling studied art at 4 schools including the East Anglian School of Art and the Ipswich School of Art. The artist had her first solo exhibition in 1967 and since then has introduced her works at many locations including the Hadleigh Gallery, Suffolk, the National Gallery, London, the Serpentine Gallery, London, and the Marlborough Fine Art London. She has also received many international awards throughout her career including the Boise Travel Award.

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