Laetitia Yhap joins Hales

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Laetitia Yhap joins Hales
Laetitia Yhap, Keeping Company, 1982.

LONDON.- Hales announced representation of British painter Laetitia Yhap. Yhap's first solo show with the gallery will open in September 2023 at Hales London, followed by inclusion in the gallery's presentation at Frieze Art Fair in October.

Laetitia Yhap (b. 1941 London, UK) graduated from Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in 1962. Following her graduation, and, through the support of the Leverhulme Research Scholarship, she travelled to Italy for a year to research Renaissance art and architecture. In 1965, she gained her postgraduate degree from the Slade School of Fine Art. Yhap lives and works in Hastings, UK.

Yhap is best known for intricate paintings of fishermen on the beaches of Hastings, UK, created on unusually shaped panels individually hand-made by Yhap for each work. Born in England during the second world war, Yhap has Austrian and Chinese heritage, which, according to her, throughout her life created a feeling that she didn’t belong. Finding solace in art making and, later, in the Hastings fishing community, she has forged a unique and important voice within British art history.

Yhap found early success through solo shows of non-figurative paintings at the prestigious Piccadilly Gallery, London, in 1968, 1970 and 1973. Moving out of London in 1967, she settled in Hastings, in the south-east of England, where she initially struggled with feelings of isolation as well as finding subject matter for her work. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that she discovered her calling to the fishing community and felt compelled to make works of the scenes that unfolded on the beach. Enraptured by the ritual of the fishermen’s everyday activities, she began to draw from life before returning to her studio to make the paintings.

Each painting's unique shape is integral to the work. Yhap states, "When I have an idea to be worked out in paint, it does not sit in my mind's eye as a rectangle. It has an autonomy which somehow has to be interpreted. The shape I construct as a surface to work on is crucial, as that is what makes it possible to compose the painting or helps it to compose itself." The influence of her travels to Italy is evident in these works, echoing the shapes of frescoes as well as the humanist themes found in Renaissance paintings. Through these works, the labour of the fisherman became Yhap's theatre of events.

Continuing to make works of the fishermen for twenty-five years, Yhap documented an industry which today looks completely different. She stopped making paintings when she discovered she was allergic to the paint and that it was making her very ill. Instead, using different techniques, Yhap practiced Chinese calligraphy as well as making mosaics - the result of continued study of archaic and Roman art. Her practice has been defined by a continually renewed attempt to use the human figure in context to express the less than heroic. Art historian and previous Tate curator Richard Morphet, a long-term champion of Yhap, wrote that her works celebrate both 'the compulsion of observation and the complex reality of existence, each of these images opens a world and makes it permanently fresh.'2

Yhap has exhibited extensively in institutions including Serpentine Gallery, London (1979); Hayward Gallery, London (1982); Tate (The Hard-Won Image, 1984), London; The Barbican Art Gallery, London (1987); Whitechapel Gallery, London; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (1974, 1982, 1985 and 1987) as part of the John Moores Painting Prize, where Yhap was one of the awardees in 1974.

Yhap's solo exhibitions include Laetitia Yhap: Fishing Paintings, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Hastings (1984); Laetitia Yhap: The Business of the Beach, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (toured Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Camden Art Centre and others in 1988-89); My Vital Life, Laetitia Yhap at 80, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Hastings (2020); Laetitia Yhap: Longings and Belonging, Yanlan Arts and Culture Foundation, Beijing (2022).

Selected public collections which hold Yhap's work include Tate, Arts Council of Great Britain, British Council, Contemporary Art Society, Government Art Collection, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, Walker Art Gallery, and others. Her work is also held in numerous private collections in UK, Switzerland, USA and China.
[1] Yhap, L., The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.306-7
[2] Yhap, L., Dodd, P. and Yuling, Z. (2022). Laetitia Yhap: Longings and Belonging. Tabula Rasa Books.

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