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Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Turner of the Waves

I love the sea, it is this immense body of water which I am sure so many thousands of people feel a deep, strange affinity with. It's a sensation, as waves roll in and out on the dark beach, that I struggle to put in to words. But when I saw Maggi Hambling's wave paintings I felt I had found an expression. Hambling paints the British sea, the North Sea, the 'raging beast' that 'eats away and is changing our coast forever'. She grapples with its power, with courage and force she paints the sea.

'Good morning, death - Good Morning
Early in the day I draw the sea with graphite in a sketch book. Back in the studio I create waves that break again, in oil paint, bronze or etching ink. People, animals, birds emerge from the subconscious as I work and are there to be discovered.
[...] Terrifying, beautiful, rapacious, embracing, never still, always hungry, always seducing, always mysterious, always there.
As a child I would walk a short way in to the sea, stand still and talk to it, ten-to-the-dozen. Now I listen and identify with the shingle, as the sea, like time, forces inevitable erosion.'
Maggi Hambling, April 2010

I can identify with Hambling's relationship with the sea. When I go to the beach I walk all the way down its long spine at the waves edge, picking up treasures and telling myself stories. There is a kind of walking with your feet in the sea which I find irresistible. The waves at my ankles feed my thoughts and I am totally lost in their music. Then there is a fear which is inevitable, of a force which controls you. In the dark, on your own, that's when you feel it most, a tidal pull upon the human.

However I do not like Hambling's wave sculptures; they look dead to me. Bronze is a medium which does not translate all of the shifting fluid and torpid qualities of the waves. In paint Hambling manipulates the liquidity of her medium, in metal there is only the turgid, frozen movement of the waves.


  1. Wow these are really pretty- love the textures and the brushstrokes. How something so quick, simple and loose can be so amazing :D

  2. A wave is gone in a moment, yet the art you like, captures such detail as though the wave paused. Very profound in fact.

  3. I was not familiar with Hambling so thank you. I love the paintings.