The Redemption of Delilah
Alexi Marshall's debut solo exhibition unveils a new series of work - in print, fabric, drawing and embroidery - which reimagine denigrated women of history, the archetypal femme fatale, through the humanity and nuance that lies in sin.
Marshall subverts the usual didactic nature of traditional narratives inviting the viewer to look deeper at condemned female figures, centring around the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. While Delilah’s name has become synonymous with a voluptuous and treacherous woman, we never find out her fate in the Bible or if she felt guilt for her actions; like many of the women in the text she exists so briefly, never fleshed out to be human and denigrated as ‘bad’ forever.
Rather than simply glorifying these ‘bad’ women Marshall highlights both their power and fallibility, exploring the internal and external forces at play from desire to the occult. Within each work characters from different narratives, including Mexican and Trinidadian folklore, collide to tell a story of tragedy, ruminating on ideas of fate, forgiveness and the cyclical nature of life and death. Interwoven between these narratives are autobiographical elements alluding to the artists personal exploration of grief and guilt after loss.
At the core of the exhibition is a large-scale Linocut, reimagining Delilah’s ultimate sin within a densely populated tableau. Alongside further prints and drawings, fabric drapings punctuate the gallery space, presenting prayer-like poems laboriously sewn on like prayers. In utilizing embroidery in a fine art context Marshall subverts connotations of gendered craft, colour and imagery; using these materials which for so long have folded into the tradition of “womans’ work” to create unapologetic imagery of these chastised women in their bold sexuality, divinity and unconstrained freedom.
At a time when powerful women are still regularly denigrated in contemporary society, Marshall shines a new light on these ‘imperfect female sinners’ offering them a voice beyond the confines of history. These characters from religion and folklore become Marshall’s own personal deities, neither benevolent or malevolent but acting as symbols for fate and the innate wild nature of humanity.