Two titans of contemporary art are currently on show at Malborough, London. In contrast to the bright, white, open plan space these two artists explore themes of war, ecological devastation, depression, death and acts of terrorism.
Rego’s Depression Series stemmed from attempts to ‘draw herself out’ of periods of depression. Once she had drawn the images, they were locked away and forgotten, until recently when she agreed to her son making a documentary about her. The film, Secrets and Stories, will air this Saturday, 25 March on BBC2.
Entering a bright room you’re confronted by a series of selves. Starting with Mermaid, where a beached, lifeless Rego mermaid is laid out on the sands while another thrashes in the shallows behind. There’s a tension between action and inaction in these pictures. Hands which should be painting are in awkward positions, unused, hidden, or self comforting. Figures looks as though they have been thrown down onto the seat by a hidden assailant, battered, surrendered, beaten up and bound. Desperate and anxious, some look away caught up in hidden worries, some look directly at you. They don’t ask for help, despite their mental pain, trouble, trauma. This is what depression looks and feels like.
Hambling tackles big themes in this solo show, her eighth for the gallery. New work has been created as a reaction to the stories of our time in 2016 – war, horror, drowning at sea. Dead babies, guns and terror.
Through layers of thick, unctuous paint a person with a gun, stares out at us directly through the explosions and devastation of Aleppo, one of the oldest and most important cultural cities in the world, now sacked and a site of war and terror. In one of the enduring images of the year, Hambling has painted a boat, full of people, in a turbulent sea, with bodies falling over the side. We see the human price of war and the displacement of people as they put their faith and life savings in the hands of traffickers who don’t care if they live or die and don’t provide safe passage.
There’s sculptures too, a pigs head Hunger, Politician, Sleeper. Contorted, 3D versions of the paintings.
Human verses nature. What have we done?
Maggie Hambling, Edge
to 13 April 2017
Marlborough Fine Art, 6 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BY