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The collection ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ by Grayson Perry is a show of his exploration of our personal lives and reflects the way in which we grew up in terms of social class. Grayson Perry is known for always working with traditional materials such as bronze, cast iron, ceramics, printmaking and for these pieces, tapestry. Tapestry is known to be the artwork of large houses, and they tell stories of classical myths as well as religious events, historic scenes and famous battles. Perry’s tapestry pieces use the idea of documenting ancient events, but instead doing so with modern day circumstances.
Much of the inspiration for the pieces came from Grayson Perry’s ‘safari amongst the taste tribes of Britain’, referring to Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds. He travelled this journey for his TV show ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’, which was first aired on Chanel 4 in May/June in 2012. The collection involves the construction of characters from those that he met, incidents and objects that resembles his journey.
A lot of the inspiration came from William Hogarth’s 18th century paintings called ‘A Rake’s Progress’, which is a series of eight paintings which tell the story of young Tom Rakewell, who inherits a large sum of money from his father.
Unfortunately, the young man spends this money foolishly and spends it on clothes and gambling. He then marries for money and loses this inheritance during more gambling and ends up sentenced to debtor’s prison and dies in a psychiatric hospital. Perry interlinks the story of Tom Rakewell into his tapestries as well as his own experiences. ‘Hogarth has long been an influence on Perry’s works, his Englishness, his robust humour and his depiction of, in his own words, ‘modern moral subjects’. (Miro, 2012).
Grayson Perry comments: “The tapestries tell the story of class mobility, for I think nothing has as strong an influence on our aesthetic taste as the social class in which we grow up.” He has a political interest in consumerism and the history of popular design, but for these pieces of work he solely focuses on “the emotional investment we make in the things we choose to live with, wear, eat, read or drive.” He believes that our consideration for our class and taste is set within our character, and that this “emotional charge” is what draws him to the subject.
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