At one of the most prestigious buildings on the South Coast is the work of one of the South Coast’s most prestigious painters. In the first floor gallery of the De La Warr Pavilion, Hastings resident and acclaimed British painter, Laetitia Yhap’s exhibition entitled ‘An Ending to a Beginning’, features intricate paintings of fishermen on The Stade Beach in Hastings Old Town. Laetitia has created unusually shaped hand-made panels which she has painted using oils. These odd shapes of people and boats in muted shades stand out upon the walls of the gallery space, creating something more compelling and engaging than the usual rectangles lined up neatly.

Laetitia began this series of works, shortly after moving to the area from London in 1967. For decades, Laetitia has been immersing herself in the world of Hastings’ fishing fleet, seamlessly incorporating the people, settings and landscapes into her intricate paintings. In a world where the realities of daily life and the mysteries of the sea converge, Laetitia’s work beautifully depicts the lives of our fishing community that is so integral Hastings.

Yhap would sketch the fishermen from life before heading back to her studio to paint. For twenty-five years, Yhap would capture the resilience and spirit of the fishermen, as well as their often dangerous working conditions.

Yhap’s work has been exhibited in The Serpentine Gallery, Tate, The Barbican and The Whitechapel to name just a few. In 2020, My Vital Life was Laetitia Yhap’s exhibition at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery to celebrate the artist’s eightieth year.

On moving to the area, Yhap says, “I needed silence and decided I would turn my back on the city. What you see as an outsider when you take a walk along the beach in Hastings, is a still life made up of boats or various sizes and a great deal of tackle.”

Laetitia would walk along the seafront for many years without sketching or even taking a photograph. Instead, she would keep to the shoreline, conscious not to trespass into alien territory. Then one day, “there was some kind of epiphany,” she says. “It was certainly born of desperation. One thing emerged and this was that human beings were now going to be the topic to occupy me.”

On her exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion, she says,

“These paintings depict an outdoor world and it is populated with men. It is only now, looking back, that I can understand a little more about what drove me to risk so much.”

Yhap didn’t like the idea of framing her paintings as she felt that doing so tamed the images.

“Each painting was a one-off. I carpentered the shapes myself and there were further stages in printing the surfaces. It was a very physical business but because it took so much time before I could begin to paint on each particular shape, I already knew my way around it immediately.”⚫

An Ending to a Beginning celebrates Yhap as a vital voice within British Art. 
6 April – 27 May 2024
First Floor Gallery