|Photos weren't allowed, so this is all you're getting|
While a lot of modern British art leaves me cold, I actually do like Grayson Perry's work. Possibly it's the fact that he works in a traditional medium, ceramics, often in extremely traditional forms like bowls and vases, yet explores modernity within that medium and those forms. There's continuity of the past along with social comment and challenges to the viewer's thinking. I think that's clever; pots are tactile things that we're all familiar with. We can all engage with them. I'm far more likely to think about the scene on a pot than I am half a shark (and I reckon the pot takes far more crafting skill to produce, never mind notions of 'art').
The work on show wasn't ceramics, however. 'The Vanity of Small Differences' is a series of six tapestries. A Channel 4 series accompanied the making of it, but I never saw that. No matter. If you know your British art at all, you'll know Hogarth's series of etchings 'The Rake's Progress', charting the high life and fall of a Georgian ne'er-do-well. These tapestries show the rise and fall of their modern counterpart, one Tim Rakewell, born into a working-class family in the north-east, becomes a middle-class tech entrepreneur, and ends up rich but dying when he crashes his Ferrari. When he created the work Perry went to locations that epitomised Tim's life, starting in Sunderland, met people and explored the English class system and notions of taste.
Perry's talk was hilarious. He had plenty to say about English taste, and how 'good taste' is basically being inoffensive to your peers while still being noticeable. He said that he tried to dress to suit the venue when he gave a talk. I thought his outfit last night was quite Gothic Lolita; he wore a black blouse with long sleeves (gathered at the cuff) and a Peter Pan collar under a grey sleeveless smock dress. He said it was the closest he had to Georgian style; afterwards Andrea quite astutely said, "I wonder if he thinks Bath is a boring place, and that's why he didn't wear something more flamboyant." Possibly it was his nod to the muted colours of Farrow and Ball paint, which he associates with the city.
It's all about the pebble bowls
One thing that really fascinated Perry when making the tapestries was pebble bowls. He visited one house where on one windowsill was a dish of pebbles with a vase of catkins in it. After that, he kept looking out for pebble bowls. Everyone seemed to have one, yet these simple objects still seemed to speak volumes about the class and tastes of their owners: the flamboyant, mass-produced dish of them in a working-class hairdresser's home, the middle-class bowl of handmade ceramic pebbles, a wealthy architect's bowl of crystal spheres, and what he described as 'the ultimate pebble bowl', a truly posh person's dish of sea glass collected at the beach. The closest thing I have to a pebble bowl is a terrarium full of fossils and pebbles gathered in Dorset, so you now know I am utterly posh. (Ha!) With my cat-scragged sofa as well, I'm practically an aristocrat.
|Sadly, he didn't mention charity shops|
so I have no idea where chazzas feature
on Perry's class spectrum.
The talk made me think a lot about taste, and class. I guess in Perry's terms I'm middle-class, because I have things like foreign crafts picked up on my travels and a couple of Cath Kidston duvet covers, though I'd rather buy a tin of Dulux than shell out for Farrow and Ball and I honestly couldn't see myself trying to hide my telly. (He literally had one woman run through her home ahead of the film crew saying, "DON'T FILM THE TELLY!") What do you think he'd make of your home? And do you have a pebble bowl? He's got me hooked on pebble bowls now.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PEBBLE BOWL.