My art obsession matched only by the good old hockey days
WRITING exclusively for The Hockey Paper as part of LGBT history month, Maggi Hambling – one of Britain’s foremost contemporary artists – recalls days spent running around Suffolk hockey pitches...
I grew up in the country town of Hadleigh and the hockey club featured prominently from earliest childhood. My sister Ann played for Hadleigh ladies and my brother Roger for the men’s. Both played in the mixed and my parents, both ex-players, umpired.
I remember freezing muddy Saturday afternoons on the sidelines, the only ray of sunshine being the segment of orange was given at half-time.
Two players were for me a cut above the rest: glamorous, fast and dextrous. For the ladies team, Carol Adams – on whom I had a passionate crush – and for the men’s team the stunningly good-looking Geoffrey Morley, who went on to be awarded the MBE for services to hockey.
Much later in life I found the still glamorous Carol in charge of Hadleigh’s Chapel of Rest where I had gone to draw my father in his coffin. I blushed. Before allowing me into the inner sanctum, Carol took me to one side and said: “I I must warn you Maggi. You know your father always had a twinkle in his eye? Well, it’s gone.”
My memories of playing for Hadleigh are vague – I don’t think I was good enough – but I certainly played for Amberfield School for Girls and indeed rose to be captain, as I was for netball and tennis.
Speed never being a strong point, I defended as a right back but progressed to centre half where I could remain entirely stationary in the middle of the pitch while ordering my team from end to end. In those days the left-handed lunge was quite a weapon. Ille- gally, we swung from above shoulder-level, aiming, in theory, at the ball, but more often landing a good thwack on the opponents’ ankles.
My sister, far in advance of me at any sport, was a selector for England Under18s and 21s. I watched the women’s Olympic final in Rio, what a fantastic match and what a triumph. And hoorah for the RichardsonWalshs – so encouraging for all gay sportspeople.
Sport and art have much in common. For instance, to watch John McEnroe at close quarters on the old, more intimate No 1 Court at Wimbledon, was like watching a Matisse linedrawing in action at the net. For many sports, hand and eye must operate simultaneously, just as in drawing or painting. And passionate obsession is essential for both.
But sportspeople must, inevitably, sadly, eventually retire while we artists need not. Indeed some of the greatest artists have produced their greatest work at the end of their lives. So we are the lucky ones.
Maggi Hambling’s exhibition of new paintings and sculpture, EDGE, is at Marlborough Fine Art in London, on March 2April 13.
Passion: Maggi Hambling has a hockey background