British artist Maggi Hambling presents her first Chinese exhibition
By Li Qiong
02:58

Though perhaps better known as a sculptor, British artist Maggi Hambling is also an accomplished painter, with works featured in many of the UK’s leading art collections, principally at the National Portrait Gallery. 

Now in her 70s, Hambling is presenting an exhibition of her paintings and drawings for the first time in Beijing, and the opening coincides with International Women's Day. 

Self-portrait by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

Self-portrait by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

The career-length retrospective showcases Maggi Hambling's work from the 1960s to the present day. It includes one of her most iconic pieces – the series entitled Walls of Water.

The exhibition's title, "For Beauty Is Nothing But the Beginning of Terror", is a quotation from German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke. According to Ms. Hambling, Rilke's "Duino Elegies" precisely reflect her own feelings about the ocean – beautiful, scary and powerful – which she attempts to capture in many of her paintings.

“Wave rolling 1” by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

“Wave rolling 1” by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

The inspiration, Hambling said, originated at a very young age – when she was a toddler. During her childhood, she enjoyed walking to the shore and talking to the sea, like a best friend. But the older she grew, the more she preferred to listen.

The exhibition includes Hambling's portraits of her lovers, family and friends. They are very intimate paintings of family life. The artist believes that "the basis of any work of art must be love," and she describes portraits as love letters.

"Enfin 2" by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

"Enfin 2" by Maggi Hambling./Photo courtesy of the Central Academy of Fine Arts

In 1980, Hambling became the first artist in residence at Britain's National Gallery. Her works are now found in the collections of major museums and galleries, both in Britain and abroad. 

Despite her own success, Hambling said women still face more challenges than men in their careers. Women, if they are to address the imbalance, must believe in themselves.

The exhibition of Maggi Hambling's Paintings and Drawing runs through May 1, at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.