Had a spontaneous day out in London yesterday. Quite by chance I caught the tail end of a BBC Two documentary ‘Making Love with Paint’ about the artist Maggi Hambling.
Within moments I found myself utterly captivated by the woman, who turned 75 on Friday, and her work.
There and then I booked a slot at the Marlborough Gallery in London’s Mayfair to view some of the work she has produced during lockdown.
On TV I was particularly captivated by one of her portraits of the music hall entertainer Max Wall. I love everything about this picture from the colours and composition to the characterising cigarette butts but most of all it’s his highly expressive melancholic face.
I equally enjoyed many of her other portraits of Oscar Wilde, Francis Bacon, Charlie Abrew and her muse and lover Henrietta Moraeas.
I also loved her series of North Sea paintings and her controversial sculpture Scallop, a tribute to Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach.
The Marlborough exhibition displayed some of her latest work including one entitled Covid Spring, various self-portraits (example of her ‘working’ is pictured) and an entire room of paintings entitled, Laughing.
My favourites though were the various animal paintings, particularly Polar Bear and the five poignant images in the same room of captive, mal-treated animals such as ‘Young Dancing Bear’ and ‘Elephant without tusk’.
Hambling discovered her love for painting aged 14 and shows no signs of slowing down after over 60 years as an artist. In the documentary she revealed she wakes up at 5am every day and the first thing she does is draw. How wonderful it would be to have a passion like that.
“The artist doesn’t choose the subject, the subject chooses the artist,” she said. “If something moves me sufficiently I’m forced to do something about it in my work.”
You can really see that in her work, a ferocious, unconscious outpouring of feeling and meaning.
I was hoping my retirement life would comprise such spontaneous trips and so it has despite Covid.
A bit more planning and I couldn’t have taken in some of her other work at the National Portrait Gallery and The Tate Britain. Maybe next time.