Grayson Perry, born in 1960, and winner of the Turner Prize in 2003, is one of the best known and influential artists living today. Primarily known for his ceramic jars and his self-identification as a transvestite, his work over the last few years has branched widely to include television series, tapestries and maps.
I chose to focus on these other works for this post, partly because I’ve written about his pots before and partly because I find the maps particularly inspiring. All of his work features images and the collage of ideas combined with a sense of history and craft of medium filtered through self-examination. The maps do all this but with a commitment to research and historical accuracy that seems to balance the self-expression in an art historical context. Seen in the image above, Perry’s sense of color and composition are a uniting theme in his work and himself as a work of art. Interestingly he suspends this way of working in the maps, so that the reference remains clear, though they are explicitly self portraiture. It seems the artist sacrifices his style for these works to know himself more completely. Map making requires a certain degree of stripping away and precision so that the directions can stay clear.
Perry was inspired for the etching titled The Map of Nowhere, from historical map of the earth centered around the body of Christ. Instead of the son of God, the artist has placed himself as the center of the world, with light for the seekers of higher consciousness shining straight from his “bum hole”.
This is a wonderful write-up of the work from the British Council collection where the piece is collected. Below is a brief video of an interview with the artists on the creation and inspiration for the work. http://collection.britishcouncil.org/collection/artists/perry-grayson-1960/object/map-of-nowhere-perry-2008-p8194
Another significant work in this style is the Map of an Englishman. Printed on four large plates to give the work the look of having been folded, extra ink was also allowed to stay on the plates to give it the feeling of period authenticity.
This blog post below has some wonderful images of the map close up and a solid discussion of the work itself. The maps are both achievements of scale and intimate drawings, revealing more and more with closer study.
Map of Days is a self-portrait based on maps of the fortified towns of renaissance Europe. In discussing this work Perry likens the self to a walled city, separate from its surroundings, but dependent on them.
The video below is from a British television series called All in the Best Possible Taste that Grayson Perry hosted in 2012. In the series he explores the taste standards of the classes in England as he prepares to make 6 large tapestries on the subject. I’ve included it here because it shows the artists meticulous process and his drawing as he considers composition of the tapestries.