In a period when many artists try to be sexy, and only end up being commercial and competitive, she’s the real thing.
—John Berger, critic and novelist
The British artist Maggi Hambling’s first exhibition in China, “FOR BEAUTY IS NOTHING BUT THE BEGINNING OF TERROR: MAGGI HAMBLING PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS, 1960-”, will open on March 8th, 2019 at Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (CAFA Art Museum) in Beijing.
Maggi Hambling, who is 73-year-old now, gained an international reputation in the 1980s and it has only been enhanced since then with recent shows at major museums such as the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. She was the first Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in London. She has also had the rare privilege of one-person exhibitions at British Museum, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, as well as at the Yale Center for British Art. The Tate in London owns 19 of her works, and the British Museum, the Yale Center of British Art, V&A Museum, Australian National Gallery also own a large number of her drawings.
“FOR BEAUTY IS NOTHING BUT THE BEGINNING OF TERROR” is a career- length exhibition which showcases about 60 Maggi Hambling’s works from the 1960s to the present day, including oil paintings, ink, graphite, charcoal drawings as well as a number of wooden sculptures. The exhibition is curated by the famous British curator, Philip Dodd.
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror” is taken from “Duino Elegy”, written by the great Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, which has also been Hambling’s touchstone across her whole career. Maggi Hambling’s most iconic work will be presented in the exhibition, including her extraordinary Walls of Water painting, as well as her portraits of lovers, family and friends. In the Walls of Water series, she uses an extraordinary range of brushstrokes, including what looks like abstract gestures as expressions of strong emotions to describe the sea crashing into a wall over and over again. The sound of those big waves crashing seems to penetrate the picture. These paintings are the feelings of the artist in the face of beautiful and terrifying nature, and have a sexual dimension. As for her portrait drawings, Hambling depicts people she deeply loves, including her late father and mother, her lovers and teachers. There are also self-portraits. John Berger has written The 235 Days about Hambling’s 235-day drawings which record her moving passion for her muse and lover Henrietta Moraes (also a muse of artists such as Francis Bacon). She draws over and over again her loved ones, and never stops even after they have passed away. For Hambling, “the basis of any work of art must be love”, a love which is passionate, disturbing, gentle and fragile. Hambling’s paintings are vivid and visceral, from the heart.
Hambling’s paintings about the sea are closely related to her portraits. As John Berger said, “Nothing else in the world quivers with such complexity as the living human face and its quivers are like waves crossing the sea of a lifetime so that the one who is drawing becomes an observer, at the water’ s edge…” He has also pointed out that Hambling’s drawings are comparable to Rembrandt’s.
For the past half century, Maggie Hambling has been outside the various fashions and factions of the London artworld, and she has largely lived outside London too. She was brought up in Suffolk and now lives in a small village there with only a hundred residents where she lives most of the time. She has said: “For me, time in the studio is real time; the rest is a charade,” and repeatedly claimed that art is more real than reality.
In the large number of Maggi Hambling’s fans, there are many celebrities, such as Prince Charles, the novelist Jeanette Winterson, and the British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The catalogue published for the exhibition “FOR BEAUTY IS NOTHING BUT THE BEGINNING OF TERROR: MAGGI HAMBLING PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS, 1960-” collects a poem for Walls of Water by Carol Ann Duffy, The 235 Days by John Berger, art reviews by Charles Saumarez Smith from Royal Academy of Arts, London and Zhang Zikang, the Director of CAFA Art Museum as well as an interview with Maggi Hambling by Philip Dodd.
The exhibition will run through 1 May, 2019.
Courtesy of the artist and CAFA Art Museum, for further information please visit www.cafamuseum.org．