Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Grayson Perry - Who Are You? - on TV and at the NPG

The fruits of Grayson Perry's recent collaborative efforts about Who Are You? are being revealed this week in terms of
  • a series of programmes about identity on Channel 4 and
  • an exhibition of associated new artwork and portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery which opens on Saturday.  
Grayson Perry is one of my favourite contemporary artists - not least because he's an artist who demonstrably exercises his brain cells on a regular basis! I'm beginning to think of him as a bit of an Artist Anthropologist! He's certainly a major chronicler of contemporary life and culture as well as issues related to identity.

Grayson Perry CBE, RA
(Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery)
I must confess I very much like this new way of bringing art to the public - a structured project about matters of interest relating to contemporary life, an exhibition and an associated television programme - plus a book.

It makes art-making much more accessible in terms of the concepts behind it as well as the actual process of making the art and seeing the end result.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? - the exhibition (sponsored by Coutts) - opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 25 October 2014 and runs until 15 March 2015. It includes 14 portraits relating to the people who participated in the Channel 4 television series of programmes about identity. You can find it across is across Floor One of the Gallery’s permanent collection displays. Admission free.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? - the television series - started tonight on Channel 4. This follows Perry as he spends time with people who are at a crossroads or crisis in their own identity, and makes works that try to capture each of them in a single, revealing image.
  • Episode 1 - Individuals (Wednesday 22 October, 10pm, Channel 4). The four individuals who feauture in the programme are 
    • ex Minister Chris Huhne - before and after prison 
    • Rylan Clarke, during a period of consolidation of his celebrity

    • Kayleigh Khosravi - a 27 year old Muslim convert living in Ashford Kent with her four children
    • a young female-to-male transsexual Alex
Some of Grayson Perry's sitters have become miniatures, some large tapestries, some statues and, of course, some are ceramic pots.

The portrait of disgraced politician Chris Huhne is a vase decorated with a repeating pattern of motifs such as his face, his personalised number plate and a speed camera. The ceramic pot was purposefully smashed by Perry and then repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique, where the cracks are repaired using lacquer resin dusted or mixed with gold.

In the National Portrait Gallery:
  • The Huhne Vase is displayed opposite portraits of Gladstone and Disraeli 
  • nearby The Earl of Essex, a Hilliard-inspired miniature of X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark (in porcelain, digital transfer, electro-formed metal and acrylic), is displayed in a showcase between the Gallery’s cabinet portraits of novelists George Eliot and Wilkie Collins.
The Ashford Hijab, 2014 - as seen in tonight's programme
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London 
© Grayson Perry
The Ashford Hijab, a silk screenprint, shows Muslim convert Kayleigh Khosravi and her children on the path from what Grayson Perry describes as ‘the temple of consumerism’ of the Ashford Designer Outlet Centre to the focal point of her Muslim faith at Mecca.

I am a Man, a small patinated brass portrait of young female-to-male transsexual Alex. This has echoes of the Kensington Gardens statue of Peter Pan and is in the style of some of Perry’s favourite sculptures, the Benin bronzes of West Africa. It is displayed close to The Line of Departure, a tapestry in the style of an Afghan rug which shows three wounded war veterans, in a room surrounded by the Gallery’s portraits of Baden Powell, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and soldiers Lord Kitchener and Frederick Barnaby
  •  Idealised Heterosexual Couple, 2013 
    Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London 
    © Grayson Perry
    Episode 2 - Modern Families
     (Wednesday 29 October, 10pm, Channel 4) explores the idea of family today and how it has changed radically from the conventional notion of Mum and Dad and 2.4 kids.
Three glazed pots depict 
  • Modern Family, Jack and John, white male parents who have adopted mixed race Shea; 
  • Memory Jar showing Alzheimer’s disease sufferer Christopher Devas and his wife Veronica and 
  • Idealised Heterosexual Couple, divorcees who live apart but whose family is brought together through its love of ballroom dancing classes, meaning father Colin sees more of his daughters that many a live-in father. 
Jesus Army Money Box, 2013
Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London
© Grayson Perry
    Episode 3 will tackle groups
    • Jesus Army Money Box, a glazed ceramic reliquary in the form of a mediaeval style
    • Chasse, a small enamelled chest containing a holy relic, depicts a Christian group that works with homeless people.
    These are articles about the project which have appeared in recent days - plus one of his other ventures - editing the New Statesman. They are by no means all uncritical.

    A new book - Playing to the Gallery

    The Channel 4 series and display coincide with the publication of Grayson Perry’s new book Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood published in the autumn by Penguin.

    I was sent a preview copy and it's an excellent and thought provoking read

    A House in Essex

    In the meantime, his other major project A House in Essex - a house designed by Perry which has been constructed to tell the story of a mythical Essex woman called Julie - is nearing completion and will soon be available to rent!

    There are various articles about this:
    but I saved the best to last ;)

    Who is Grayson Perry?

    Winner of the 2003 Turner prize, Grayson Perry is one of Britain's best-known contemporary artists. He works with traditional media; ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry and is interested in how each historic category of object accrues over time’s intellectual and emotional baggage.

    Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing viewers in with beauty, wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as fear and anger. His hard-hitting and exquisitely crafted works reference his own childhood and life as a transvestite while also engaging with wider social issues from class and politics to sex and religion.

    Grayson Perry has had major solo exhibitions nationally and internationally including the critically acclaimed Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum. His monumental suite of tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences, which were inspired by his BAFTA winning Channel 4 series: In the Best Possible Taste, are currently on a national and international tour led by the Arts Council Collection and British Council. In June 2013 Perry was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Grayson Perry is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

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