Cursebreakers is artist Alexi Marshall’s first solo exhibition in a major national art gallery, at the De La Warr Pavilion, a 1935 grade I listed building on the seafront at Bexhill. In 2005, after an extensive restoration, the De La Warr Pavilion reopened as a contemporary arts centre, encompassing one of the largest galleries on the south coast of England.
This is a new body of work that includes linocut prints, mosaics and embroidery that refer to representations of hybrid female figures and fantastic landscapes. Driven by a need for new mythologies, Marshall constructs imaginary worlds that encourage a purposeful examination of, and dialogue between, multiple traditions and histories.
Borrowing from paganism, folklore and animism, Marshall uses anthropomorphic and solar motifs, talismans, and ritual embroidery to challenge and subvert historical representations of women. She uses large-scale linocuts depicting female figures – part human, biblical and animal – in fantastical yet deeply personal landscapes that are simultaneously unnerving and alluring, and that seem to defy fixed narratives. Unapologetic imagery of women in their sexuality, dark femininity, divinity and unconstrained freedom recur in these landscapes and the figures break through old cycles through regeneration and rebirth.
The title of the exhibition refers to occultist Aleister Crowley’s alleged curse cast upon Hastings, East Sussex. The story goes that he cursed the town and its inhabitants, so that they could never free themselves from it; anyone who left would feel compelled to return. The only way to truly leave is to always carry a pebble with a hole in it, taken from Hastings beach, in your pocket. Marshall interweaves this legend as well as pagan histories and practices, and their current celebrations such as Hastings’ Jack in the Green Festival, which sees a ‘Jack’ cloaked in leaves to release the spirit of summer.
This exhibition is a collaboration between Flatland Projects and the De La Warr Pavilion. Originally, Cursebreakers was to take place at Flatland Projects – an artist-run exhibition space in Hastings which had to close due to the pandemic. In response, the De La Warr Pavilion and Flatland decided to collaborate on its presentation in our First floor gallery.
Exhibition photos by Rob Harris, courtesy of De La Warr Pavilion