The story of Delilah, famous for giving Samson an impromptu haircut, gets a reboot in the debut solo exhibition of Alexi Marshall.

The exhibition which has just opened at PUBLIC Gallery unveils a new series of work - in print, fabric, drawing and embroidery – which explore the maligned female characters of biblical, Mexican and Trinidadian culture, reclaiming them as flawed heroines.

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.

At the core of the exhibition is a large-scale Linocut which reimagines Delilah’s ultimate sin within a densely populated tableau. Alongside prints and drawings, fabric hangings, such as Jezebels Burden and Sweetest Downfall punctuate the gallery space presenting 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.

“From the perspective of a Catholic upbringing, the imperfect sinner women from religion and myth folklore have always fascinated me and became my own personal deities. They have always provided me with my own spirituality away from the patriarchy of organized religion.”

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 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.

Alexi Marshall (b. 1995, London) graduated from the Slade School of Art in 2018. Her work investigates sexuality, spirituality and womanhood using print, drawing, fabric and embroidery. Among other awards including the Boise travel scholarship and Antony Dawson print prize, Marshall was selected as one of the ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’ exhibiting at Liverpool John Moores University and The South London Gallery (2018). Other group exhibitions include ‘Bridge’, Izo Gallery, Moscow (2018), ‘Figurative Now’, Daniel Benjamin gallery, London (2018), ‘Young Gods’, Charlie Smith, London (2018) and ‘18/11/1’, PMQ, Hong Kong (2018).