Maggi Hambling War Requiem & Aftermath
Wednesday 4 March – Sunday 31 May 2015
Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus
Open Tue – Sun, 12.00 – 18.00
The exhibition War Requiem & Aftermath, held in the Inigo Rooms from March-May 2015, was a survey of new and recent work by British artist Maggi Hambling, encompassing painting, sculpture, installation and film.
"A statement on the anguish and absurdity of war." Telegraph
"Flickering war victims and flame-ridden battlescapes confirm her as one of Britain's foremost contemporary painters- innovative and individualistic." Apollo
"Death, the afterlife, war...these are themes one encounters in each and every room, yet in very contrasting ways." Hunger
"Carefully curated space offers up five unique rooms which take the spectator into five very different, very immersive atmospheres." Hunger
"Maggi Hambling goes far beyond mere observation. In her work we find the same understanding of the human psyche and the development of a visual vocabulary that gives expression to man's vulnerability in the face of conflict and aftermath." Lewis Hind
"It is admirable that after a fruitful, almost half century-long career, Maggi is still at the top of her game, still waking up at five every morning and still getting better."
The starting point of the exhibition was Hambling’s site-specific installation War Requiem , shown at ‘SNAP’ (Art at the Aldeburgh Festival) in the summer of 2013 to wide critical acclaim. Hambling has created a successor to the first installation, War Requiem 2, in which anonymous portraits of war victims and ravaged battlefields emerge as spectral visions out of charged and turbulent paintwork. Pervading the new canvases is Indian yellow pigment that simultaneously evokes fanfare and fire. The paintings are juxtaposed with an extract from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem of 1962.
Also exhibited was a condensed selection of earlier works dating from the early 1980s, when Hambling came to prominence as the National Gallery’s first Artist in Residence. These 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. The painting Gulf women prepare for war bears witness to a specific historical event, yet also comes to stand for the international conflicts that have ensued in subsequent years and continue to rage into the present.
The installation You Are the Sea (2012) features a single canvas from the Wall of Water series and a sound piece arising from Hambling’s 2009 poem of the same title. The work has its origins in the artist’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 was 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.
King's academic partners
During the exhibition, Hambling worked 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 art. These collaborations formed the basis for a series of talks, debates and events (see Events Programme on the right).