21 May – 28 August 2022

Maggi Hambling: Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne presents new work by Maggi Hambling, one of Britain's most celebrated and controversial artists.

This exhibition has now ended.

Glyndebourne are very pleased to present Maggi Hambling: Glyndebourne, the artist’s first exhibition at the opera house. Hambling (b.1945) has been a prominent and controversial figure in the British art scene for over fifty years and is a celebrated queer icon, who works continues to move, seduce and challenge. As with much of Hambling’s output, her works for Glyndebourne interrogate themes of life, loss, death, ecstasy and desire.

Hambling’s works are on view across three spaces. On view for the first time is The Night of the Lotus Eaters (2019), a hypnotic large-scale painting in black and gold that also adorns this year’s Programme Book cover. The work presents an expanse of black, deep and impregnable, from which three hovering figure materialise from the gloom, a singular electric force. Around them is a cascade of gold marks, a rising vapour wrestling away from the rivulets of paint that stream downwards. The edges of the painting are laced with gold. This is a painting about pleasure and temptation, but also the dangers of annihilation. If you look closely, you can see that the figures are already starting to dissolve into an imperceptible mist. Hambling states, ‘This painting is very close to the experience of opera; it’s simultaneously transcendental and disabling. The gold is about desire, of course. But the black is about sitting in the audience and being transported to another world. When the opera ends and you have to leave, you come out into the dark of the night. You arrive back in real time.’

The exhibition also includes a series of new paintings, Stage Diptychs I-VII (2020), installed in the Old Green Room, a historic room rarely accessible to the public. These paired paintings reveal figures in various states of motion – dancing, laughing, hugging, gesturing, crouched over and lying down. These are intensely coloured with layers of red and pink tones, smudges of white and Indian yellows and gold, icons for the body in motion. In several of the panels, the figures are almost obliterated, disintegrating before our eyes. Only an imprint remains, a ghost. ‘Music is a bit like that’, says Hambling, ‘it’s there and it’s gone, it’s there and it’s gone’. There is something inherently operatic about the Stage Diptychs with their antiphonal dialogue between figure and formlessness, gesture and paralysis, sound and silence. Installed in a former rehearsal space, these almost spiritual life-forces permeate the space with a renewed potentiality.

Downstairs in Gallery 94 and featured as part of our collections exhibition Cover to Cover, are also ink drawings, reproduced as limited edition prints in collaboration with Sketched. From a series titled 6am Portfolio (2020), Hambling has selected one to represent each of this year’s productions. The 6am Portfolio is available via the Glyndebourne Shop. Please note that the portfolio is limited edition and the price increases as the edition runs out.

This exhibition is kindly supported by Marlborough Gallery.

All works are for sale and available to view by appointment. Please contact our curator for further information – nerissa.taysom@glyndebourne.com.

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