Iain Gale on exhibitions

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The Independent Culture
Strange things happen when artists change their medium. For Picasso, as the Tate Gallery's recent show demonstrated, the move into sculpture ensured that the world he had explored on the picture plane was realised in three dimensions. It takes experience and no little courage to make such a move and it says much for Maggi Hambling that she has made her own with such evident success.

For the past 20 years, Hambling's exuberant bohemian presence has enlivened the British art world with witty and enduring works of impressive originality. She is renowned for her fluid expressionist portraits and landscapes as much as for works which subtly update the mythical meaning of serpents and minotaurs. In recent years, she has experimented with abstraction and in 1993 she made a series of small ceramic sculptures which evoked the surrealist spirit of Mir.

It is from this tentative exploration of the third dimension that Hambling's new bronze sculptures are derived. Although most of them are based around the engaging concept of a sort of anthropomorphised coffin, it is the others which appear most successful. Two works in particular - Two Figures and Kabuki - stand out, not least for the fragile eloquence with which they define the space which they inhabit. It is interesting to move from the bronzes to Hambling's latest series of monotypes which echo the sculptures in their preoccupying theme best summed up as the orgiastic behaviour of mankind in the presence of a greater being.

While it is possible, in a few of the sculptures, to detect a tentative approach, this is easily outweighed by their overall impact and we should look forward to Hambling's next steps into her brave new world.

Marlborough Fine Art, 6 Albemarle Street (0171-629 5161) to 2 Mar

Left: Maggie Hambling's 'Andrew Logan'

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