Taste And Tapestries With Grayson Perry

The problem with the Daily Telegraph Review section on a Saturday is that they often don’t bother with internet versions. Today there are two interesting art articles in the Review. The first by Grayson Perry is reproduced online, but the second about L S Lowry is not. I may have to type up the Lowry extracts.

Grayson_Perry_The Agony_in_the_Car_Park

The Agony in the Car Park – Grayson Perry (2012)

I’ve already given extracts of an interview with Grayson Perry in a previous post. The full text of today’s article by Perry is here, but here are a few extracts:

“Ever since I was a child I have been very aware of the visual environment people build around themselves. When I got older, I wanted to decode their choices… People seem to be curating their possessions to communicate consciously, or more often unconsciously, where they want to fit into society.

“The British care about taste because it is inextricably woven into our system of social class. I think that – more than any other factor, more than age, race, religion or sexuality – one’s social class determines one’s taste. The anthropologist Kate Fox … observes that, even amid the homogenised dress codes of youth, class plays a part. A middle-class teenager may still wear a hoodie but it will be a more cotton-rich brand. …

“When I was given the chance to present a television series – last year’s Bafta-winning Channel 4 documentary All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry – I wanted to use the opportunity to research a series of artworks about class and taste. I decided to make a series of six tapestries…


The Adoration of the Cage Fighters – Grayson Perry (2012)

“Class is something bred into us like a religious faith. We drink in our aesthetic heritage with our mother’s milk, with our mates at the pub, or on the playing fields of Eton. We learn the texture of our place in the world from the curlicue of a neck tattoo, the clank of a Le Creuset casserole dish, or the scent of a mouldering hunting print. A childhood spent marinating in the material culture of one’s class means taste is soaked right through you. Cut me and, beneath the thick crust of Islington, it still says “Essex” all the way through.

“In my series of six works, The Vanity of Small Differences, we follow the life of Tim Rakewell, from humble birth to famous death. The main thread of this journey is his progress through the social strata of modern British society. Nearly all of the places, people and objects that feature in the work were inspired by my televised taste safari.

“We chose the three locations for our television series – Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotswolds – because they are each already strongly identified with the social classes. Sunderland has a proud working-class heritage from its heyday as a mining and shipbuilding town…

“Within each social group, taste seems to play a slightly different role. When I asked club singer Sean Foster-Conley what I should feature in my tapestries to show working-class taste, he said “the mines and shipyards”. “But they no longer exist,” I replied. In a very important way, however, he was right. The heavy industries that shaped the north of England also shaped the emotional lives of the generations of people who lived there. Winding towers and cranes can be torn down in a day, but the bonds, formed through shared hardship working under them, live on. Taste is an emotional business; working-class people often talk of a strong sense of community, and taste decisions are often made to demonstrate loyalty to the clan…

“I started my research with a full set of prejudices about the “inferior” taste of the working class I had left behind. I now find myself agreeing with the cultural critic Stephen Bayley that good taste is that which does not alienate your peers. Shared taste helps bind the tribe. It signals to fellow adherents of a particular subculture that you understand the rules. Within the group of, say, modified hatchback drivers, there is good and bad taste in loud cars in much the same way as there is good and bad taste in installations within the art world. Outsiders may find it baffling or irritating, but that is of less importance to insiders than impressing one’s peers.”

Grayson Perry’s tapestry series The Vanity of Small Differences is on show at the RA, London W1, until August 18 as part of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
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4 Responses to Taste And Tapestries With Grayson Perry

  1. Pingback: Cross Swords With Brian Sewell? No, Thank You! | notes to the milkman

  2. seascapesaus says:

    Very intriguing John. Some interesting comments about taste and class, particularly about ‘shared taste’; good taste being choices that don’t offend your peers. I will have to have a word to ‘im indoors about this.

  3. Are you suggesting that ‘im indoors’ tastes are offending you? Heaven forbid! 😉

  4. Pingback: London 2 – The Royal Academy | notes to the milkman

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