Alexi Marshall: Your Hair Was Long When We First Met

Alexi Marshall

Artworks Title: Your Hair Was Long When We First Met

Material used: Linocut print on Japanese paper

Year: 2019

Studio Based: London

Your hair was long when we first met, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Alexi Marshall, Your Hair Was Long When We First Met, Linocut print on Japanese paper, Edition 1/3. Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery

Art Verge

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Alexi Marshall

For my large linocuts, I start by drawing. Collecting signs, symbols and characters that will be in the tableaux. I usually have an image in my head of the finished piece before I even put pen to paper. I draw and draw scrappy sketches, eventually putting them together in a composition, like pieces of a puzzle. My practice is informed by myth, folklore and religion, but I like to tread the line between this ‘other’ world and reality – by including influences form my personal experience, being a young woman in these times, my friends, my family. These narratives become intertwined in the drawing stage.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Divine, Feminine, Energy.

Would you use another three different words to describe the (title) artwork?

Visceral, Hidden, Histories.

How did you come up with this artwork idea? Is there any story behind this artwork?

Recently in my practice I have been drawn to examining and reimagining ‘villainous’ women: those who have been denigrated by religion, history and folklore. The piece depicts the biblical figures of Samson and Delilah. Through dealing with my own feelings of guilt and grief after loss, I began researching and exploring this story over some months. The narrative intertwines love, fate and tragedy. The goddess Fortuna is seen spinning her wheel of fortune on the left of the print, and the omnipresent shapeless beings watch the scene below them unfold, unable to change the outcome, the story has already been written.

What colour is used the most in this painting?

Only black ink is used in this piece. I use black for my larger pieces because they are already a slight sensory overload of size and detail, I like to keep the colour simple.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

I would love to see my work exhibited in an old gothic building, perhaps a cathedral or ruined temple – somewhere which has a sacred past.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

Belkis Ayon is an incredible Cuban artist whose detailed, ambitious collagraphs had such an impact on me, she completely changed the way I thought about printmaking and what a print could be. I also have been fascinated with Frida Kahlo my whole life. Her distinctive way of transforming her personal pain into art – baring her soul – is to me like some form of alchemy. Composition wise – I look at the Mexican muralists a lot. To name just a few more: Emma Talbot, Dorothy Iannone, Pamela Coleman Smith, Tracey Emin.

How do you know when this artwork was finished?

When the paper is peeled off the lino – revealing the print.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

My studio is pretty basic, but a perfect oasis for me. Tucked away in a north London backstreet, just a 10-minute walk from my house – I can roll out of bed and be working before I have properly woken. It is a little shed-like building with a few other artist studios dotted around. Wild plants surround the buildings and there plenty of foxes, cats and squirrels to keep me company.

Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this painting?

I would hate for my work to ever be didactic, but I leave references and clues to various narratives within the symbology of the work, so hopefully the viewer can gain something as these elements unravel themselves.

What does your mum think about your art?

My mum is my biggest cheerleader and supporter, I’m always spouting off ideas to her usually reciprocated by a ‘hmmm…sounds good Lex!’. I’m not from a very ‘arty’ family and the lack of criticality when wanting feedback can be good, as I always want my work to speak to people without a need for them to be fluent in the art world. I like to imagine my grandma looking at my work while making things. Art is not for the elite.

Which exhibition did you visit last?

I went to the Denzil Forrester exhibition at Stephen Friedman. My favourite piece was this large blue painting from 1987 called ‘blue jay’. The hair on the figures was painted so beautifully like delicate blue feathers.

Which are your plans for the near future?

Well currently my debut solo exhibition is on at PUBLIC Gallery, where this artwork is being displayed – now I have some time after the show I want to explore working with textiles more and increase my skills in that area. I have been talking about collaborating with another artist in digital print, fabric and embroidery but it’s in very early stages so can’t say much!

Additional Works

Sweetest Downfall, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Alexi Marshall, Sweetest Downfall, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Jezebels Burden, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Alexi Marshall, Jezebels Burden, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Alex Marshall Studio Portrait, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery
Alex Marshall Studio Portrait, 2019, Courtesy PUBLIC Gallery

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