Keeping Company: Debut exhibition by Laetitia Yhap opens at Hales
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Keeping Company: Debut exhibition by Laetitia Yhap opens at Hales
Detail of Laetitia Yhap, Boy Tossing Water Over His Rowboat, 1981-1984. Image courtesy the Artist and Hales Gallery. Copyright the artist.

LONDON.- Hales has opened 'Keeping Company', Laetitia Yhap’s debut exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition displays work for which Yhap is best known — intricate and inventive paintings of fishermen, each crafted on unusually shaped panels, individually hand made by Yhap for each piece.

The exhibition spans a ten-year period from 1981 to the early 1990s and takes its title from one of Yhap’s most prominent works, Keeping Company, which defines her relationship with the fishing community in the seaside town of Hastings, UK. Although rooted in Hastings, the paintings speak to universal themes of the nature of human relationships, togetherness and loneliness alike, and see the social side of the fishing beach, the moments which are filled with both lively conversation and contemplative labour.

The exhibition highlights Yhap’s ambitious compositions within unique structures — each episode self-contained, shaped into an emblem. The works in the show are made on bed heads, doors, chopping boards and often bound with rope to form an upturned shield or an extended horizon line, while the compositions highlight the influence of Yhap’s travels across Europe, echoing the idea of predellas and the look of frescoes as well as the humanist themes found in Renaissance paintings.

"On Hastings Beach, men and boys who fish live out most of their lives together. It was this communal, continuous life-out-of-doors which made me envious. I wanted a share in it. I went there every day"… Laetitia Yhap

Yhap lived in Hastings for ten years before the fishermen became her subject, making paintings that did not consider people or place. A self-described city person, the beach seemed like a too perfect set piece with no entry point, until a revelatory moment: 'It was just a matter of noticing someone leaning on a fishing boat…the way he leaned.' Yhap proceeded to spend 18 months researching, drawing on scraps of paper she kept in her pockets, shuffling the paper like a pack of cards as the action changed, allowing the raw experience to be direct. The first painting came in 1976 and the cycle of paintings and drawings which evolved from this first statement occupied Yhap for 25 years. Looking to the male form in a world unknown would become her essential, intimate subject matter.

The exhibition spans a ten-year period from 1981 to the early 1990s and takes its title from one of Yhap's most prominent works, Keeping Company which defines her relationship with the fishing community. The paintings see the social side of the fishing beach, the moments which are quiet and unheroic: the endless conversation, the act of coming ashore to haul the nets in, making, mending and clearing them and boxing fish. "Timothy Hyman, eminent writer on art and artist, recognizes that 'Each picture has its origin in what she calls the "small transactions", the "warm connections of people with things and places", the tiny, ostensibly undramatic variations in a daily round." - Business of the Beach, Timothy Hyman, May 1988

Hales London
Laetitia Yhap: Keeping Company
September 2nd, 2023 - September 30th, 2023

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