Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grayson Perry on television in 2014

Grayson Perry CBE RA - artist and contemporary social anthropologist is set to wow us with more of his fresh insights into contemporary society and the place of artmaking within it with two new television programmes due to be aired later this year. They are:
This follows his stunning success and increasing popularity associated with recent television and radio programmes and art exhibitions including:
  • his first Channel 4 series All In the Best Possible Taste (Channel 4, 2012) which won a BAFTA for his exploration taste and class
  • The Vanity of Small Differences - his series of tapestries produced as a result of the Channel 4 series. Perry and his gallery gifted this major work to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council.  It is currently touring the UK supported by Channl 4. the Art Fund and others. Remaining dates are:
    • Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (14 February – 11 May 2014)
    • Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (23 May – 10 August 2014)
    • Leeds City Art Gallery (late August – October 2014).
    • Also available as an iPhone/iPad app which I highly recommend for those unable to get to see the tapestries. 
  • Perry's 2013 Reith Lectures - still available as a podcast (links to MP3 recordings below) - and well worth downloading for posterity - even thought the BBC has determined they will be available indefinitely!  They related to:

From The Vanity of Small Differences - a portrait of taste in writing
the names of cultural and style icons form what appear to be
textile ribbing but are in fact words (eg Picasso, Proust, Purcell, Matisse, Wagner)
Image credit: Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close (detail), 2012
by Grayson Perry © the artist

Who are you? - the new Grayson Perry Series


Three hour long films film Grayson Perry meeting people and then producing their portraits.

The people have been chosen because they are facing "a moment in their lives when they need to define who they are". The challenge for Grayson Perry is to distil his encounter with them and the impressions he gained into a portrait.

The portraits range from miniatures, to large tapestries, statues and ceramic pots - which was the medium he first became known for.  I'm sure they will all include a few well chosen words from Mr Perry! (see the above image for an example of how he works).

All of the works will then be shown in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery - alongside portraits in the permanent collection. This is being timed to accompany the transmission and since Channel 4 says later this year and the NPG has its exhibitions up to October already listed - I'm going to take a guess and say it'll be an exhibition opening in November which will turn into a mini-blockbuster over the Christmas holiday period!

A complete range of contemporary human life - not previously covered in the "Vanities" - are his sitters for a portrait. They include:

  • a transgender teenager, 
  • Loyalist marchers in Northern Ireland, 
  • former Cabinet minster Chris Huhne (who sat for Grayson the day he was released from prison), 
  • deaf parents, 
  • a Muslim convert, 
  • a couple living with Alzheimers, 
  • X-Factor and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Rylan Clark. 
One of the things I'm most pleased about is that Perry seems to be single-handedly resurrecting the group portrait.  I've commented previously on this blog at how this as a form of portraiture seems to be very much in need of some support from the great and the good - and it looks like Perry is doing his bit!

As with the The Vanity tapestries, the individual participants contribute to a group portrait. This will be a panoramic group portrait which takes as its inspiration 'Derby Day' - the epic painting of social class by Victorian painter William Powell Frith which is in the permanent collection of Tate Britain. Interesting this is what the BBC Paintings website has to say about Frith - and some may perceive some interesting parallels with Perry.
The works of William Powell Frith depict crowded scenes from Victorian life. He was a traditionalist who spoke out against developments in contemporary society and openly satirised the likes of Oscar Wilde and the Pre-Raphaelites in his work.

Grayson's Great Design


The second programme for Channel 4 is about a house for Essexthe creation of Grayson's biggest, riskiest and most ambitious work of art yet.

His "great design" can only be described as an enormous two fingers to those who have sought to characterise the "Essex Girl" in a particular way. Perry was born and brought up in Essex and his project is a tribute to the Essex everywoman - resulting in the creation of a intricate chapel near Harwich which is dedicated to a mythical Essex woman called 'Julie.’
The design for the house is a visual one-off, handcrafted down to the finest detail in a rich, dense and extravagant style that gives two fingers to the puritanical modernist architectural establishment. There are 400 relief tiles depicting Julie, four roof sculptures, and a series of tapestries celebrating her life.
A House for Essex in Wrabness
An image of the "gingerbread house grand design"
A House for Essex overlooks the river Stour at Wrabness, six miles west of Harwich port. It's a product of the artist's collaboration with architectural firm Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT).

It was commissioned by Alain de Botton's Living Architecture scheme dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class architecture. It allows people to take holidays in modern architecture.  I guess the idea is that the more people are exposed to contemporary architecture the more likely they are to commission it. Bookings will be taken for a stay in the house - which is due to open later this year.
When it is finished, it will be very, very elaborate. It will be an opportunity to live in a shrine. The idea behind the project relates to buildings put up as memorials to loved ones, to follies, to eccentric home-built structures, to shrines, lighthouses and fairytales."
You can


Perry has had previous ideas for a chapel - including the Chapel de St Claire (Claire being the name of his female alter ego) .

Previous Making A Mark blog posts about Grayson Perry


Excluding short references to exhibitions in which he is appearing these are my blog posts about Grayson Perry
Without a shadow of a doubt, the star of the show can be found in the very last room.

The suite of brilliantly coloured tapestries which make up The Vanity of Small Differences by Grayson Perry RA are simply stunning. It's worth visiting the exhibition simply to see these tapestries.
  • Essential Listening: Democracy Has Bad Taste (16 Oct 2013) - A compendium about Grayson Perry and his first Reith Lecture. Including links to the podcast, videos, transcript and news reviews.
  • Audiences for Art - and how to engage them (4 March 2014) - Some of you may recall Grayson Perry's Reith lectures where he referenced audiences for the Arts. The one that stuck in my mind was "Fun, Fashion and Friends". I've now discovered the document from which this came.

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