The title of this group show, “EX VOTO”—a truncation of the Latin ex voto susceptor—translates as “from the vow made.” Curated by Lucy Stein and Sarah Hartnett, a duo also known as the Mary Ley Line Pilgrimage, the exhibition offers works from thirty contemporary artists who share an interest in a secular sense of the divine, contemporary ritual, and anachronism.
In 2019, Stein and Hartnett set out from St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall to journey along the Mary ley line, a trail spanning southern England and concluding at Hopton, an unremarkable coastal exurb south of Great Yarmouth. Guided by dreams, coincidence, and psychoanalytic interpretation, the pair developed a personal esoteric symbolism, manifest in their large-scale frottage drawing Retable (all works cited 2023), which depicts St. Catherine laboring at the wheel.
Alongside this work, “EX VOTO” features contributions from fellow “receptive visionaries,” including Alexa de Ferranti, Keira Fox, Nina Royle, Natalie Dray, and Phoebe Collings James. Their visions enthusiastically embrace the quotidian. Ready to be worn, Rosie Mullan’s Pool is a slack swath of woven fabric accessorized with ceramic hoops and tags. Cicely Travers’s Bargello consists of diaphanous silky diamond-pattern lingerie that looks like it could have been shed by a randy harlequin. Steve Claydon’s prosaically titled Mary Magdalen with red egg puts forth an icon of the biblical heroine cradling an enigmatic orb in the midst of a red square.
By offering these works as votives on public display, the curators deftly invite speculation on private wishes and desires. For Stein and Hartnett, who intend to repeat their journey, it is a generative act. Vows are made and remade; the pilgrimage is never completed.