Artist Interviews

Joe Hesketh | A 21st-Century Woman

Joe Hesketh’s paintings are dynamic statements about the human condition. We ask her about her experience as a woman in the male-dominated art world.

By Bethan Street | 12 Mar 2019

Lancashire based artist Joe Hesketh creates art that is playful yet grotesque to make dynamic statements about the human condition. Joe processes things she sees and hears every day, using it as inspiration for her art which is loosely fabricated to highlight the ridiculous in our lives. We ask her about her experience as a woman in the male-dominated art world.

Baby Wipes by Joe Hesketh, 2017


Would you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes, I am a feminist, I don't understand women who aren't. Women naturally support each other, or at least I'd like to think so and in this male-dominated world, we need to stick together. In the past, a "feminist" could be labeled a man hater but I think that was a way of also keeping women down and adding confusion to the word to keep women in there place, well that was then and this is now!

The art world is still very much male-dominated. How does this impact you and your artistic practice?

The whole world is still very male-dominated, I was brought up as an equal in my household so I found it very disturbing when I left school. My whole work is about the world we live in, in our time, so it is very interesting for artists to use the information around them. I use humour to highlight the ridiculous and the ridiculousness that this is still going on in this day and age, so the impact on my work is huge.

Facebook by Joe Hesketh, 2017


How do your paintings provide an interpretation of life as a woman in 21st-century Britain?

21st-century women are more complicated and confident than the traditional cliches women of yesteryear so I like to challenge accepted norms using blobby and lumpy expressive forms rather than the so-called 'ideal figure', exaggerated proportions and in a cartoonists way to evoke cliches of over-sexualised representations and to show strong women in all shapes and form and hopefully people see the beauty in that and also see that dark side of viewing any female in a pathetic one dimensional way.

Bubble Head 1 by Joe Hesketh, 2015


What is the role of the grotesque in your works? Are you rebelling against the ‘classic’ nude?

To speak about the grotesque in my work is to speak about the horror in this world, from leaders running the planet to basic cruelty to people and animals. I'm very concerned about the state of the earth and how lots of things are swept under the carpet, I use my work to point out simple changes we can make instead of being blinded by consumerism and to look the other way. Nobody's perfect but simple things can make a big difference.

What is the motivation behind the clown motif in your works?

The clowns in my work are the stupidity of us all, I've now morphed into my work and go as a clown about town. I think the clown sums up this place where we all live. It's bright it's beautiful, it's also funny at times but there's always the undertone of darkness and with a clown it's subtle but you always know it's there.


Can you take us through your process?

My process changes from day to day and it always depends on what's affected me that morning or the night before. I usually get a bee in my bonnet over something so this fires me up to decide whether I'll paint, sculpt or get down to some drawing. For the last 6 months, I've been preparing two giant figures for a local woods in Pendle so I've been doing a lot of drawing in between. Some of my most emotionally loaded artworks are my drawings (and where a piece starts) and these are a display of the extreme, things that don't sit easily with me but I always have to rub the image back or most drawings would end up clown-like, planet-eating monsters. This also makes me laugh.

Dummy by Joe Hesketh, 2014


What inspires you?

I get inspired by a lot of things, from watching documentaries on artists or heroic influences, old movies, old circus footage but Goya's materialist philosophy is always a shocker to me and from so long ago it's so apt to operate within the current consumerism culture's understanding.

Do you have a favorite inspirational figure?

My favourite inspirational figure would have to be Yayoi Kusama, I first came across her whilst at university in the late '90s. The obsessive working, so the massive body of work, she encompasses so many art forms and you can tell when you see a piece you are actually seeing inside of her head and how she's experiencing the world. This unique vision placed her as a key developments figure for pop, performance and installation art, creating a Kusama world and questioning what we are and what it means to live.



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