From 4 March to 31 May 2015, the Cultural Institute at King’s College London will present War Requiem & Aftermath, a survey of recent work by British artist Maggi Hambling, encompassing painting, sculpture, installation and film.
The starting point for 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 will be 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) will feature 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 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) have 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 four 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.