I couldn’t help repeating the phrase “He’s so good isn’t he?” throughout the TV show that accompanied his new works at National Portrait Gallery, or while looking at these pieces in the flesh. He really is very good.
This series of work is all about identity and Grayson Perry manages to observe, analyse and summarise intricacies of his own self, society and other communities or individuals and then repackage them in a variety of art forms, each one perfectly suited to the subject matter.
In one piece Ryland (of X Factor and reality TV fame) becomes The Earl of Essex and a miniature,but bold and distinct portrait adorns the walls. In another a Hijab documents the changing lifestyles of a young English girl who turned her back on consumer society and found solace in Islam and the community at the Mosque.
Grayson Perry is famous for his pots and these are also on display, each becoming a portrait in itself. One dissects the disgraced Tory Chris Huhne, breaking down elements of his personality and the concept of the powerful white male in our society, repeating motifs such as his face, penises and personalised number plate around a broken and repaired pot. Another pot, Memory Jar, personifies Alzheimers diesease and has him shredding family photos and destroying personal and shared memories.
Aside from the works themselves what struck me was the numbers of people queuing to look at these works, and not just in a passing manner, but lingering, looking and reading and digesting. This was obvious from the very first piece, a tapestry as portrait of the UK, tapping into all different aspects of the country, its people, traditions, climate, psyche and much much more had people blocking up the top of the stairs and for very good reason.
Watching how Grayson Perry came to create these works of art, all the thought processes and connections that had to come together for these pieces to be made really adds to the enjoyment of the pieces and to the overall felling that Grayson Perry really is very good.
The TV show Grayson Perry: Who Are You was broadcast on Channel 4
The exhibition at National Portrait Gallery is on until 15 March 2015
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE