Art / 26 Aug 2019

Interview | Maggi Hambling

Maggi Hambling is a British painter and sculptor. She is best known for her expressive portraits, sublime depictions of landscapes and seascapes. Working in the tradition of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. Hambling's close-up paintings of waves also call to mind the suspended, detailed prints of Hokusai Katsushik. Besides painting, the artist has made several public sculptures including a tribute to Oscar Wilde in the centre of London and Scallop on Aldeburgh beach.

Born on October 23, 1945, in Sudbury, United Kingdom. She studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing under Cedric Lockwood Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines before attending the Slade School of Art. In 1980, Hambling became the first Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in London, soon after created a series of portraits of the comedian Max Wall. The artist's works are in the collections of the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Gallery in London and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh among others. Hambling lives and works in London, United Kingdom.

FINE: We are honoured to have you here today. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to get to know you more. Could you briefly introduce yourself in one sentence?

Maggi Hambling: I am an English painter, sculptor and printmaker, now aged 73.

FINE: You are well known as a painter as well as a sculptor. Which role you prefer, or do you consider yourself something else?

Maggi Hambling: I make both paintings and sculpture and these disciplines are interactive, often happening alongside each other. And the physicality in my painting and the colour in my sculpture are an intimately connected language. I would add that my daily practice of drawing is crucially important.

Father painting 9th December 1997, ink on paper, 32 x 24 cm

FINE: We found you grew up in a small town of Suffolk and still lived in a small town instead of living in a big city like London, which many artists do. Is there any particular reason or thinking?

Maggi Hambling: I certainly grew up in a small town in Suffolk but moved to London aged 19 to study at Camberwell and the Slade art schools. It wasn't until 1999 that I began to spend more time in my Suffolk studio than my London one, but I continue to work in both.

FINE: What is your methodology and working process, for example, how do you decide the colours, composition, and their relation in your sculpture?

Maggi Hambling: Colour in my sculpture, as in my painting, is decided by the subject of the work, not by me. The subject must be in charge of the artist, not vice versa.

Wave rolling 1, 2008, Oil on panel, 6 x 10 cm

FINE: What is your relation to your art, is it a personal reflection?

Maggi Hambling: My work is my life and time in the studio is the most real. Life experience compels me to respond to it in my work.

FINE: Could you please share about your concept behind your famous work, Memorial to Oscar Wilde?

Maggi Hambling: Oscar Wilde was a man of the people, consequently in my sculpture, he is at ground level, rather than up above, on a plinth, in order that people may join him in conversation as a friend, rather than an untouchable icon.

Rosie the Rhino, 2006, Aquatint, 64 x 49 cm

FINE: How do you distinguish yourself from the other contemporary artists?

Maggi Hambling: I have never belonged to a 'school' of painting, always listened to the voice inside me and ignored fashion.

FINE: Who is your favourite artist, and what inspired you most?

Maggi Hambling: Rembrandt, for the honesty of his portraits and his compassion for humanity.

Wall of water 3, 2011, Monotype, 75 x 107 cm

FINE: You had an exhibition in China this year. How do you feel about that? Anything special you would like to share with us about the exhibition?

Maggi Hambling: I was thrilled to show my work at CAFA in a hugely sympathetic gallery-space where a new audience in China could respond to my work for the first time 'in the flesh'.

FINE: Nowadays, more and more young Chinese come to London to study art. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for them?

Maggi Hambling: Draw for at least half an hour every day, from life or the imagination, study the great masters in galleries and museums, always experiment, take risks and be true to themselves.

Quick Q&A

FINE: As an artist, are you... in silence or with background music?

Maggi Hambling: I work in silence, listening to my subject.

.. hard working or talented?

Maggi Hambling: Disciplined and optimistic.

.. daily dress code dramatic or simple?

Maggi Hambling: Simple, but never without mascara.

.. rather stay in the reality or imaginary space?

Maggi Hambling: In the studio is real space, outside it more of a fantasy.

.. a planner or doer when you have an idea?

Maggi Hambling: A doer! A plan would be useless when trying to make a work of art.