In 2011, Joe Hesketh, a native of Pendle, walked the long Purgatory Trail that links Pendle Forest and Lancaster Castle, the two main sites of the infamous 1612 Pendle Witch Trials. 2012 marks the 400th anniversary of the trials, commemorating a time of superstition and fear. Pendle Hill is the Glastonbury of the witch world, revered in popular culture but almost totally misunderstood in the context of its time.
Simon W. Desmond Fine Art is proud to present A Pendle Investigation where Hesketh brings a contemporary outlook to the violent story that resonates with her own experiences as a woman of Pendle. Hesketh's works about the power of greed and false press, vibrate with energy and tension and bridge the difficult transition between hard fact and the emotive representation of a long-known, but little understood, series of events. The twelve accused of witchcraft lived around Pendle Hill and were charged with the murders of ten people. Of the eleven who went to trial nine women and two men ten were found guilty and hanged.
It has been estimated that all of the English witch trials between the 15th and 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions, meaning that the Pendle Witch Trials account for more than two per cent of that total.
Investigating the incarceration, trial and execution of The Pendle Witches, Hesketh captures the tragic mix of rivalry, ambition and injustice. The fierce colour and heavy layering gives the works a physicality to be reckoned with. The paintings relate to the artist's thought processes that her walk inspired; her feelings of depression and misery allowed her to empathise with the deprivation of the incarcerates as they headed towards the uncertainty of trial. The impressions left by her journey result in a skilfully presented, visual representation of history.
As the vibrant colour and strong texture vie with unsettling figurative forms, Hesketh's paintings graphically illustrate the hysteria, absurdity and manipulation of evidence. Drunk, a jester-like figure, reminds us of the savage nature of those in power and their total lack of respect for humanity. While, in Wicca, a floating clown's head whispers false evidence to the terrified, uneducated and simple-minded figure pregnant with ideas.
Hesketh's pictures are a social documentation about contemporary women; they are also about an artist's need to reach out to her fellow human beings.
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