From the Archives

Grayson Perry: Drawings, Tapestries, and Teddy

Despite his huge poularity/notoriety, Grayson Perry is one of my all time favourite artists. I was aware of his celebrity when I was recommended to look at his work back in art school, but I hadn't been expecting his stuff to be so cool. After winning the Turner prize back in 2003, his numerous books, lectures, TV series and high profile shows in London made him one of those mythical 'famous artists'. Guess he's living the dream, or something :P

Perry works with ceramics, textiles, and numerous other ways of working that all can be considered as 'craft' (and therefore 'less than') by many in the art world. This is a deliberate decision which works with his subject matter, sometimes in harmony or sometimes in juxtaposition. For instance, here are some pots. They are crammed with information and drawings, they sometimes have photographs and objects added to their surface. Included an etching, too, so you can see the range of detail/tone in his drawings.

The first chance I had to go see a show of his was 'Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' at the British Museum. One of the only shows that has stuck in my mind, and that I keep coming back to when thinking about my own stuff. The venue choice seems odd at first, but it was actually very suiting. The show was presented in the way any other history museum would show artifacts and relics: glass cases, dark walls, text boxes with dates etc. But all of Perrys work was shown alongside items he had selected from the museums archives.

At times it was hard to tell on first glance who the work belonged to, or who it was made by. A lot of the historical objects looked very odd in this context, but this seemed to say that the creators were just like us, and that even our own culture and rituals look ridiculous when looked upon objectively in a museum. There was all this interconnected dialogue about class, art vs craft, consumerism, society and sexuality. And it gave me just a whiff of a far off future where Perrys own work had become relics of the past, with historians explaining their own projected truths onto the objects. It was immersive and mesmerising.

As well as ceramic artifacts and illustrated pots, there was a huge tapestry on show.


There is a huge amount of detail in these tapestry works, which he draws on computer software that can then be produced by specialist weavers. Some of the tapestries are absolutely massive. But I love the detail on that scale. Makes me want to play with larger scale textile stuff too. If only I could tapestry! These tapestries were one of my early influences for my lace pieces, too. The second piece there is a portrait of a lady printed onto a beautiful silk hijab.


Anyway, if you like the work, you should listen to what he has to say about it. There are a few different tv shows on channel 4: All in the Best possible taste, and Who are you. He also recorded 4 BBC Reith lectures for Radio4, which you can listen to online: they are good.

Me with Alan Measles the Teddybear in his motorbike shrine, outside Perrys show at the British Museum in 2011, looking worn out from London antics.

Me with Alan Measles the Teddybear in his motorbike shrine, outside Perrys show at the British Museum in 2011, looking worn out from London antics.

Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (From the Archives)

This is something I wrote about a few years ago, but I came across it when browsing through the archived blog posts from my old site. I thought it was worth sharing again, so I kept the original post intact, adding more things on at the end. It has been over four years since I wrote this:  I was studying at Duncan of Jordanstone, and still concentrating on painting. How time flies. can't believe it!

April 13, 2010

I have been working on a new painting. It is a portrait of Paul. Derek, my tutor, gave me advice about how to make paintings look more like old masters work. The sitter is to be posed: preferably in a formal stance, or just as a subtle reference to an old master painting that I admire. I have been thinking about making a tribute to Vermeers Girl reading a Letter by an Open Window. I love Richters tribute to it. In fact, there have been several adaptations, but here are my favourites:

Johannes Vermeer,  Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window , 1657

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, 1657

Gerhard Richter,  Lesende , 1994

Gerhard Richter, Lesende, 1994

Tom Hunter,  Woman reading a Possession Order,  1997

Tom Hunter, Woman reading a Possession Order, 1997

I wrote about the two paintings here in my contextual review at uni- mine was about the use of photography in paintings (Hopefully, that is what my dissertation will be about, too).  Anyway, referencing a famous pose such as this, or perhaps even a gesture with the hands, as in Van Eycks Arnolfini portrait, would be a powerful idea to bring forward, I think.

13th October, 2014

I didn't end up writing about the use of photography in paintings for my dissertation: writing that essay was enough for me! I began to change direction after that, and start thinking less about representational painting and more about drawn/printed pattern. Quite a segue!

A few years after writing that essay (which went okay), boooooom published an article featuring all kinds of 'remakes' of famous paintings, in the form of photography. So here are two more. I can't believe the second one is a photograph!

Johann Watzke, Girl reading a letter by an open window,  2011

Wanda Martin, Girl reading a letter by an open window, 2011

The girl reads a secret love letter, as a symbolic basket of tempting fruit spills over on her bed and the window of her home is flung wide open. It has been summarised as "a woman's longing to extend her domestic sphere" beyond the constraints of her home and society. (Vermeer, 1632–1675 (2000), Norbert Schneider)

Do you think that these tributes and remakes are successful? Which ones, and why?