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UNESCO to Tesco

oil on board 

38cm x 61cm

Jason Lilley



A short journey painting from the North Penwith coast to Penzance: a journey of contrast.


On an abstracted pictorial level (when read from right to left), the journey begins with the imposing cliffs of Penwith, over moor and field; winding round Ludgvan Church and down to the town by the bay

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As the title suggests there is a narrative other than just the pictorial response. UNESCO anointed Cornwall’s mining heritage and culture by giving it World Heritage status. Nature has subsumed the industrial landscape from mining’s heyday, so the protection that UNESCO has ordained is one of memory and not contemporary. Adding the Poldark romance to this landscape might engender a certain bucolic rose-tinted view, rather than the dirty, harsh workplace where injury and death were commonplace, and where children as young as eleven worked on the mines. 

You start the journey in a world of fantasy and romance where history and legend, giants and heroes existed. King Arthur, cocoon like, sleeps below with excalibur nearby, ready to awake and bring a new golden age to Cornwall. (Fig.1). From this magical, beautiful, ancient land, and across the moor is Ludgvan Church: standing proud and resolute, exuding rustic charm. Yet here the vicar was hanged, drawn and quartered and then hung from the tower by the English for refusing to speak his sermon in English and not in Latin or Cornish. Knowledge of history and reality can paint a different hue to a scene: now the church looks isolated and sad. Down then to Penzance, more specifically to Tesco on the outskirts of Penzance; a baying dog (Fig.2) restrained by vaping teen (Fig.3), who hundreds of years ago would have been working in terrible conditions down the mine, greet you.

The journey has gone from a reality that has been sanitised by nature and time, a place to dream and escape the contemporary, to a contemporary that is found so short a journey away. Will UNESCO anoint Tesco Penzance in a hundred years time? I doubt it, but who knows? The miners working the scarred Penwith coastline probably wouldn’t have thought that their place of work would have protected status now.







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