Artist highlights ecological precarity of fishing community

Yhap's first major colour painting of the fishing community of Hastings Stade. Image: Laeticia Yhap

A solo exhibition by the artist Laetitia Yhap brings together a selection of her intricate paintings of fishermen on Stade Beach, Hastings, UK, while highlighting ecological shifts in the marine environment.

The exhibition will be accompanied by texts written by the artist and a new film by Mark French, which draw attention to pressing environmental concerns within the local and wider landscapes.

Yhap moved to Hastings from London in 1967, and in 1974 began her cycle of work depicting raw glimpses into the lives of the fishing community, documenting daily scenes as they unfolded on the beach. Enraptured by the ritual of their activities, Yhap began to draw the fishermen from life, before returning to her studio to make the paintings.

She would continue making works of this community for 25 years, bringing forth their resilience and spirit in the face of such dangerous labour conditions. Yhap’s oeuvre serves as a unique picture of an industry that looks completely different today, as rapid industrialisation and ecological shifts render the lives of those working at sea increasingly precarious.

"Things run their course I suppose; whether you like it or not."

Laetitia Yhap, artist

Born in London during the Blitz to an Austrian mother and Chinese father, Yhap has often grappled with a sense of displacement and not belonging, and ultimately found solace in art making and the fishing community of Hastings. Titled - An Ending to a Beginning, the exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, UK, celebrates Yhap as a unique voice in British art history and highlights key moments in her career.

It features her earliest and final paintings of the fishing community at Stade Beach from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s, together with several private loans of rarely seen paintings, and a selection of drawings made directly on the beach and in the studio. As indicated by the exhibition’s title, Yhap’s work highlights the inevitable, but also cyclical nature of time’s movement.

Now in her eighties, the artist says of her experience: "I feel as if I've been a witness … I think I go back to being a free person, the self-determination, the way of life that to me is threatened, as an artist, and as a fisherman might feel. Things run their course I suppose; whether you like it or not."

Laetitia Yhap: An Ending to a Beginning
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, UK
6 April - 27 May 2024