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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 31, 2021 4:30am-5:01am BST

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described as america's longest war, has come to an end. washington's ambassador to kabul and the us military commander there were on the final evacuation flight. the us says it has evacuated nearly 80,000 civilians in the past few weeks. taliban fighters have now taken control of kabul airport. video footage shows them walking towards planes by the side of the runway. earlier, taliban forces fired their guns in the air and let off fireworks to celebrate the united states completing their withdrawal. a huge rescue operation is taking place in the us state of louisiana which was struck by hurricane ida. the storm is known to have killed at least two people, but many more are feared to have lost their lives. most of the state's southeast is without power.
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now it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk with me, stephen sackur. today, i'm in the rural east of england in the studio of one of the country's leading painters and sculptors, maggi hambling. her work has defied convention. she has won international acclaim and stirred plenty of controversy, too. so how has her creativity evolved over six decades? maggi hambling, welcome to hardtalk. hello. let me ask you about this location. many people around the world will associate you with soho, central london, a bohemian art
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scene in the city. but in recent years, you've been doing your work in the middle of the suffolk countryside. has it changed the way you work and what you do? not at all. not at all? not at all. even though the atmosphere around you is so very different? not at all. i still get up at 5am in the summer and 6am in the winter, and come into the studio and make a drawing and get going. if i stayed in bed, i'd just worry about everything, so it's far better to be up and at it. and yet, i suppose what's missing here is the community and the people and the buzz, but that... you don't miss it? we've got the buzz of the bees and the birds. i mean, people buzz about. i mean, not during the morning. they're not allowed to come. tell me about this, because you sound, even now, you sound very disciplined
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about your work. i mean, the early start, 5—6am, the determination to work every day. is discipline and work ethic really sort of central to you? yes, i'm very boring. i'm a total workaholic. i never go on holiday and i go a bit pottier than ever if i don't, for some reason, do it for a day—and—a—half. really? yeah. is it true, as i've read, that the first thing you do every morning is draw left—handed, even though you're right—handed? yeah. yeah, i do, i do. i use the dipper in a pot of ink and i use my left hand and, you know, other things can happen with the left hand. this hand, after all these years, since the age of 14, is full of tricks. but this hand, something else can happen. something i don't know about. is that... ? i mean, for a person who isn't an artist, that sounds
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almost incomprehensible. but you mean when you, literally, you start to draw with your left hand, you're not quite sure where it's going and what's happening? exactly so. let's talk about your work and i want to begin with your most recent work, because you have continued painting right through lockdown. you even had a show in lockdown and you're still at it every day. has what's happened to the world in the last year and a half, has that affected the subject matter? well, at the beginning of lockdown, i made a self—portrait, angry, because a lot of plans were up in the air. you know, i was going to show in new york and one thing and another. i mean, like a lot of people, i felt very angry at everything suddenly stopping. and then, of course, it was marvellous. there were no aeroplanes, there wasn't much traffic and you could hear the birds and it was very good not having
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to see people one didn't want to see, you know? so less anger now? well, i think anger is quite a good thing. anger is energy, anger about things that happen in the world. that's all part of it. well, i do want to talk about the way the world is going, and your view of it, because i was very struckjust looking at your recent work, you've done these portraits of animals. and if one's honest, you look at the elephant and the bear, i think there is, and a baboon and they all look pretty miserable. and i'm just wondering whether that's in some way a reflection of your view of where, you know, our planet is going, where the environmental challenges we face are going. do you feel somewhat despairing of the state our planet's in? i'm pretty much in anger and despair, yes.
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er, i mean, the sequence of events was, following the many waves of the north sea that i've painted, then came the walls of water in response to this huge storm that happened at southwold further up the coast and, you know, the terrifying... they were beautiful and terrifying at the same time. and that was nature sort of answering us back because the little man—made sea wall seemed to be made of the finest bone china, about to be smashed to bits and then the walls of water led on to the edge paintings, which are the ice caps melting and then the ice caps melting, which are still going on, led to the animals, and what we're doing to animals. are these two works behind you, are they part of that sequence? yes, yes. i don't know if they're
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finished yet, but they're part of the ice cap melting. yeah, yeah. we are destroying everything, aren't we? do you really... ? do you feel it that bad? yes, i feel it. i feel it in my bones. and so when you called part of the series the edge, you feel that we are how close to that edge? well, maybe not in my lifetime, but, i mean, are your grandchildren�*s grandchildren ever going to see a tiger? i mean, and the rest of it. er, we are doing our best to make a hash of everything, it seems. let me take you back a little bit. you grew up in suffolk, so in a sense, you've come home. yeah. you're weren't. .. i was going to say you weren't from an artistic family, but it turns out you were, but your father actually proved to be a very talented painter. but when you were a girl and when you were first introduced to painting, you had no idea your dad was actually quite gifted.
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no. well, it all started at school when i was 14 and there was an art exam and i did nothing but flick painted people and generally draw attention to myself because i was deeply in love with the biology mistress who was invigilating in the exam. and then... and i saw, then i saw the clock and it was 20 past three and i knew that at half past three i'd got to hand in a painting so i did one. and when the results came out two or three weeks later, i was top of art and i thought, "this is worth looking into. i don't have to try at it. i'm good at it." so it started then and then i went on, took my first oil paintings under my arm to show cedric morris and lett—haines, this extraordinary... known in hadleigh as the artist's house, which is on the edge of hadleigh. so we're still in suffolk at this point? yeah. but these two, cedric and lett, particularly i think lett, became real mentors to you. absolutely.
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he said the most important thing that anyone�*s ever said to me, which is that you must make your work your best friend. in other words, you can go to it whatever you're feeling. you're feeling tired, you're feeling bored, you're feeling happy, you're feeling randy, whatever you're feeling, go to your work and have a conversation with it, and that is... that's a sort of mantra that stuck with you for your entire career. yeah. so let me... i don't want to sound like a sort of cod psychologist, but let me propose to you a thought, which is that you've been frank about your family life being somewhat unusual and somewhat difficult in that by the time you came along, your father was actually bisexual and really was more interested in homosexual relationships than he was in a relationship with his wife. true enough. yeah. and you've always said that painting for you was about truth and it was about honesty. so i'm wondering whether actually turning to painting
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and giving yourself to painting was your way of getting to a truth that wasn't really there in your family life? that's absolutely right. yes. my bedroom became my studio and i tried to get at the truth because the rest of life was more like a sort of charade, really. and the undercurrents that were going on, never spoken about. and then... yeah. so i'm just... i'm very aware that looking at us across this amazing studio space is a painting you did of yourfather. and now, at the other end of your career, as you look back, i wonder what... i'm not at the end of my career! do you mind? i'm very young. no, you're very young, and you're still extremely active and you're still very busy, but, i mean, you're an experienced painter now with insight into yourself and there's your father. and i'm just wondering whether, in retrospect, as you discovered that he actually had
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a real painting talent, you came to know him through art in a way that you hadn't. . . ? yes, yes, you're absolutely right. i mean, he was always behind the daily telegraph and a very distant person throughout my childhood. and my mother was mother and father to me. and then when i left camberwell... the art school. yeah, i had a lot of oil paint and i gave him some paints and said, "why don't you have a go?" and cos he retired from the bank at 60 in those days. and so suddenly one morning when he was 65, nothing to do with me, he took the paints out and started to paint. and that's what brought us together. i was by now in my 20s and that brought us together and we loved each other very much. let me ask you about portrait painting, because you have portraits that are famous around the world of very celebrated people, artists, even sports people like andy murray, michael jackson, you painted. is there something about every
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portrait you do that is sort of common to them all, the way that you're looking at that person? well, i mean, it's the same for anything i'm trying to paint. i try to empty myself so that the truth can come through me into the drawing or into the painting, and it's the truth of the person in front of me, the spirit. i don't have to bother about likeness. likeness just happens. but i try to paint the spirit of the person and so the spirit of the person can come... if i were painting you, for instance, come through the floor and into me and into the canvas. do you have to like them to want to paint them? well, i did turn down painting mrs thatcher, for instance. what, because you just felt you couldn't go there, you couldn't get deep into her or...? well, a work of art has to be a work of love and love is not
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something i felt for mrs thatcher. so i said no. interesting. so, in a sense, if we look at your portraiture and there are so many, it is a connection that you've had with all those people. yeah, there has to be a kind of rapport. you're also very well known for, and this is perhaps difficult to get into, but you're very well known for painting death. and indeed, ithink i'm right in saying you painted your mother right after she died. you've painted others in death, too. yes. george melly always said i'd go down in art history as maggi "coffin" hambling. but it's quite obvious. i mean, i don't know why people are surprised, because when somebody is lying in the coffin, like my mother or my father, it's the last
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time you're going to see them before they go down there. so it's quite obvious to make a drawing. but it's not necessarily a time or a moment where... ..where you feel like working, cos it is sort of work as well as an act of love. but it's the last time you see the person and this whole thing about death, i mean, if you love someone, they... for anyone, they go on being alive inside you, don't they? tell me about the shift from being a pure painter to then embracing sculpture as well. why did you move in that direction? well, i was painting a painting which... it was during the laugh paintings, which i painted in the �*90s when everything was doom and gloom and thatcher, and i started to try and paint the laugh cos it was the only thing to do. and the paintings were becoming
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more and more like an object in space, do you know? the image of an object in space. and so i, being rather slow coming from suffolk, i finally realised i should be making the things rather than painting them. and quite often i could be working on a painting for quite a while and realise it was a sculpture or work on a sculpture for a while and realise it was actually a painting. i mean, these things are very funny. and you took on a very public commissions, sort of monument/statue commissions. and i'm thinking in central london, you did an intriguing sort of public sculpture celebrating oscar wilde, you took on a commission to celebrate benjamin britten. that wasn't a commission. which one? the oscar wilde was commissioned, yes, but the... ..but scallop
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on aldeburgh beach... and just for people who don't know, that's this extraordinary... i think it's four tonnes of steel, a sort of elaborate scallop shell shape, which is right on the shingle beach at aldeburgh. yes. it's a shattered scallop, you know, because i think benjamin britten took classical music and wrung it by the neck and reinvented it and so it's the shattering scallop shell. but a friend of mine had come to tea and said, "oh, i thought i was going to be a statue of benjamin britten in aldeburgh, maggi, and i thought you were going to do it." and i said, "vanessa, you're pottier than ever," because i remembered about five years earlier there'd been a lot in the newspapers about aldeburgh not wanting a statue of benjamin britten, aldeburgh not entirely approving of benjamin britten and it made me very angry. so i started to make the maquette and, you know,
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the whole floor was covered in bits of scallop shell and all the rest of it. and then various people came to see it, including simon loftus, who was the chairman of adnams brewery at the time, and he liked it very much and said, "well, we'll have to get some money together to make it." and so we worked together and i'd begun to make sea paintings and there was a show of sea paintings at snape maltings and 200 quid went every time one sold towards the sculpture. and so people gave money. and so it wasn't... so you raised the money yourself? yeah, yeah. but i suppose what i was getting to is that that exposed you to a new level of sort of public scrutiny, because these are extremely well—known pieces that you're putting in very public places and that just sit there forever and people take a very strong view, both for and against. and for an artist, i wonder what it's like when,
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for example, the good old scallop shell has a petition against it in the community of aldeburgh and hundreds of people are saying, "get rid of it." i mean, as an artist, what does that feel like? well... you know, you make a thing on your own in the studio and it goes out into the world and then it's up to the world how the world responds, you know? but does it make you angry when these folks... ? well, i was rather... i thought that scallop was one of the more beautiful things i'd managed to make and so the first time there was graffiti on it — "tin can." "happy christmas, tin can." "move it." and then "happy easter"... anyway, boring, boring stuff they put. i think 13 times it got graffitied. 13 times, yes. i thought, well, you know, i thought if i'd wanted graffiti on it, i would have put it on in the first place. no, i was a bit hurt at first. and then ijust got to dennis pegg, who...
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pegg's of aldeburgh who made the sculpture, he went and cleaned it off. it wasn't a... you know. but i mean, if something is contro... i don't set out to be controversial. i try to make something pure, actually, but it shows it's got a bit of life to it if people respond in this way. which brings me to the latest very public work. uh-huh. i thought you might get round to that. now, it is, again, fascinating to see the reaction. so you did this... i don't know if we call it a statue or a monument, a celebration of the life of mary wollstonecraft, one of the earliest sort of feminist writers, women's rights sort of writers. and it's in north london. and a lot of women don't like it. and i focus on the women who don't like it because they're saying, "why have you put this statue together with a sort of
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everywoman figure at the top of it who is naked?" and they don't understand that. and i'm just wondering what your response has been. well, i was rather surprised at the response of the feminists. i mean, don't they have bodies? i mean, one asks oneself, don't they have bodies? i mean, the idea is that that writhing, writhing form out of which rises this really tiny figure of a woman challenging the world, i mean, that was very annoying in the newspapers. they only ever reproduce the figure of the woman, which is very irritating, but there we are. i suppose one reaction of one woman writer was just think about, for example, a celebratory statue of winston churchill, which, you know, portrayed him as some sort of sexy, naked young man. can you even imagine it?
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the point is that sculpture is for mary wollstonecraft, not 0f mary wollstonecraft, 0k? it's for her spirit. you know, the ongoing battle that women have in... everywhere. and it's for mary, it's the spirit of mary wollstonecraft. and i'm not interested in making, you know, a historical statue of mary wollstonecraft in some old frock, holding a book or something like that. i mean, what's the point? i mean, people would just think, "oh, well, that's another historical statue," you know? i mean, i want to speak to people now. that's very interesting. you're so keen to be in the now because the now in the art world is full of discussion about whether there is, in essence, an attempt to sort
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of make art adhere to a view of the world, which is progressive, liberal, you know, there's this word which so many use now "woke" and i'm wondering whether as an artist, you feel there are constraints, unspoken constraints on what you're expected to be. i can't be doing with constraints. i mean, life dictates what i, you know, what i paint. you know, if you ask me what i'll be painting in six months, i couldn't answer you because i don't know what might happen. somebody might die or... like that painting of mine, gulf women prepare for war done in the �*80s. i mean, it was actually four years before the gulf war happened. but, i mean, isaw this shocking image in the newspaper. it was a black and white image of these women, which seemed to be in, to my view then in the �*80s, biblical costume.
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i mean, you see a lot of people around now like that, but then you didn't. and the shock of this image of these women dressed in biblical costume, practising with rocket launchers in the middle of the desert was a very shocking image, and so it demanded i made a painting of it. i mean, you know, things happen and i respond to them. so i suppose my question is, do you think we are culturally more timid today? i think so, yes. and all this political correctness and the rest of it. yes. you feel that? yes, of course i do. i mean, would they get the money to make the producers now, one of the great films, would the money come forth to make that film now? i very much doubt it. interesting. but as an artist, i'm getting a very clear message that whatever the cultural mores are, you're not interested in adhering to any of them.
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you're just going to do the work you want to do. it's whatever hits me in here and makes me do something about it. so i don't actually think about cultural mores and stuff. what next for you, then? what do you mean what next? well, you talked at the beginning about the focus you've had on water and the sea and your feelings about where the planet is going. will that be a recurring theme or...? ijust said, ask me in six months. i don't know. it's very bad luck to talk about what you're doing at the moment, and i can't possibly foretell the future. so we'll have to wait. you'll have to wait. maggi hambling, it's been a real pleasure talking to you. thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you.
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hello there. many parts of the uk will have another cool and cloudy day on tuesday. on monday, the sunshine was restricted more to sheltered western areas of the uk. we had some sunshine in the southwest before the cloud increased, and temperatures reached 20 highest temperature was in castlederg, celsius in plymouth. highest temperature was in castlederg, in country tyrone, northern ireland. 0nly15 celsius in aberdeen and scarborough. and this was the cool, grey picture that we had in hull, in east yorkshire. we've got high pressure still sitting to the northwest of the uk, but the winds around it coming in from the north sea, pushing in the cloud, and we start tuesday with a blanket of cloud across most of england
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and wales, temperatures 11—13 celsius. cloud's a bit thinner in scotland and northern ireland, so it's a bit cooler here first thing. we should see a bit more sunshine breaking through the cloud, across some central parts of western scotland and northern ireland, as well — and i'm hopeful that across east anglia and southeast, the cloud will thin and break to give some sunshine at times. further north across eastern parts of england likely to keep a lot of cloud. still maybe some drizzle, too. the winds coming in off the north sea, so it's not going to be very warm down the east coast of scotland, nor indeed the east coast of england, temperatures 15—17 celsius at best — in the sunshine, making 20 celsius once again. many places ending the day cloudy on tuesday, but it should be a decent end to the day for northern ireland, some western parts of scotland. now, the high pressure is still sitting to the northwest of the uk on wednesday. it's not going anywhere just yet. so we've got stronger winds down the east coast of england, through the english channel, and affecting the southeast of england. and here, i think there will be more cloud on wednesday. back to cloudy skies, maybe a bit of drizzle, too. looks pretty cloudy across most of england and wales. we may get some sunshine
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in cumbria, or likely in northern ireland, and perhaps more of scotland where temperatures will reach 20—2i celsius in the central lowlands. not too much change, really, on thursday. the winds probably a bit lighter on thursday, but still looks cloudy for most of england and wales. maybe getting some sunshine in cumbria, west wales. again, the sunnier, bluer skies more likely in scotland and northern ireland. temperatures under the cloud around 18—19 celsius. as we head into the weekend, though, as high pressure starts to move away, there are signs of more unsettled weather with rain on the horizon.
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the latest headline for viewers in the uk and around the world. the taliban celebrate with gunfire and fireworks as american confirms its 20 year war in afghanistan is over. 18 days ago the united states and our allies began our evacuation and relocation operation in kabul. a few hours ago that operation was completed. the us regiment posts a social media picture of the last soldier to leave afghanistan. and taliban soldiers take control of the
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civilian supplies at kabul airport.


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