War Requiem

As a student I heard a recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem soon after its premier at Coventry Cathedral in 1963. The piece’s dynamic combination of strangeness, horror, lament, fear, strife, tenderness, chilling authority and grandeur was unlike anything I had previously experienced.

In 2005 I visited Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. At the end of a tilted corridor I recall a high, square, empty concrete room, featuring only a tiny barred window to one side and a short, pointless steel ladder to the other, both set way beyond human reach against the ceiling. You enter alone, through a thick steel door which is immediately closed behind you.

The profound and enduring power of both Britten’s music and the architecture of Libeskind’s room (which the Dovecote at Snape Maltings closely resembles) are important factors in my installation War Requiem. The paintings of victims and battlefields are my own response to the horror, destruction and futility of war.

A statement from Maggi Hambling about her installation as part of ALIVE in the UNIVERSE, Venice Biennale on Friday 24th May :

“Thomas Mann’s story: Death in Venice inspired Benjamin Britten’s opera. Britten’s masterpiece: War Requiem inspired my installation.
ALIVE in the UNIVERSE provides a space where interactions and conversations between the arts may flourish and nowhere is richer than Venice for this to happen”.

Maggi Hambling