Aspex Portsmouth

Witch Hunt, Delaine Le Bas

Diane Le Bas was commissioned to weave the themes of Witches, Gypsies and Hunting through Aspex Gallery in her exhibition ‘Witch Hunt’.  Combining found objects and textile techniques, Le Bas explored experiences of intolerance, misrepresentation, transitional displacement and homelessness among the UK Roma community.  Her use of language throughout the installation emphasised the fear of ‘unknown tongues’, giving voices to individuals who throughout history to present day are seen as a threat to invisible borders.  The installation consisted of clashing colours and prints stitched together.  Motifs torn from fabrics, many of which were sourced in charity shops, included imagery of a foxhunting scene, country cottages, and rosy-cheeked children – all a fantasy of rural England. This contrasted the painted life-size silhouettes, imagery, and assembled childlike dolls representing the witches that in England were never burned as they were on the continent, but drowned, hanged and left in cold open fields.

“This is where the witches and the Gypsies live. Between the bold symbols, flags and rifles, things uncomfortable and stark against the fabric of the land, the old outsiders still blend, are still there, and still damned and spat at by the rest.” – Press Release for Witch Hunt at Aspex, Portsmouth.

Delaine Le Bas

A contemporary artist from a Romany Gypsy family, Le Bas’ work subverts the stereotypes of an outsider artist and folklore which are so often placed upon her.  

“When she was at school, she was badly bullied – and taunted with the words ‘gypsy witch’, a conflation of two kinds of an absolute outsider. Her installation ‘Witch Hunt’ revisits this childhood trauma and points towards a fantasy of Englishness that has, over decades and centuries, fanned the flames of this particular variety of prejudice.” – Angela Kingston

Her exhibition ‘Witch Hunt’ which began at Aspex Gallery has evolved into an ever-changing multimedia project consisting of installation, performance, and new music across a number of venues, (including Chapter, Cardiff; Context, Derry; Campbell Works, London and Galerie Kai Dikhas, Berlin) still continuing its tour in Europe 12 years on.