Foreign palette: Encountering brilliance in Istanbul

August 16, 2015

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The adoration of the cage fighters
The adoration of the cage fighters

The works of exceptional contemporary artist Grayson Perry are exhibited for the first time at Pera Museum in Istanbul. The show was organised in collaboration with the British Council, the exhibition “Small Differences” includes Perry’s largest single body of work to date, ‘The vanity of small differences’ composed of six large tapestries.

Perry, the British visual artist and potter who had studied at the Braintree College of Further Education in Essex and at Portsmouth Polytechnic in Hampshire, started his affiliation with ceramics not until the early 1980s, when he was living in a squatters’ community in London’s Camden Town. He returned to serious study of ceramics by way of evening art classes.

The exhibition was curated by Linsey Young from the British Council’s Visual Arts Team, and reflects the Turner and BAFTA award winning artist’s ceaseless fascination with daily life issues, as, religion, class, identity and the different lifestyles of members of society. Though working within the context of contemporary art, the artist remains a practitioner of artisanal crafts and a lover of beauty. He rejects conceptual art as the sole plaintiff of ‘ideas’ and champions the decorative and intimate qualities of hand-made objects with stories to tell.


The exhibition reflects Grayson Perry’s constant fascination with every day issues, such as religion, class, identity and diverse lifestyles


Perry uses the seductive qualities of ceramics and other art forms to make stealthy comments about societal injustices and hypocrisies. The beauty of his work is what draws the viewer close. Covered with sgraffito drawings and texts, photographic transfers and rich glazes, Perry’s detailed pots are deeply fascinating. Only when the viewer goes up close to the ceramic pieces do the narratives make sense being subject to dark themes.

Expulsion from number 8 Eden close
Expulsion from number 8 Eden close

‘The vanity of small differences’ completed in 2012, explores the British fascination with taste and class. Inspired by the 18th century painter William Hogarth’s moral tale, ‘A Rake’s Progress’, Perry’s tapestries follow the whole life of a fictional character called Tim Rakewell in his rise (and ultimate fall) through class system.

The tapestries are rich in both colour and composition and illustrate many of the whimsicalities and idiosyncrasies associated with life in the United Kingdom. The title of the series indicates the small differentiating factors that allow individuals to understand which social group a person belongs to or strives towards. Items and commodities such as mobile phones, the food eaten and the newspapers read all create an interesting dichotomy in Perry’s tapestries with this rather lavish art form that are more often seen depicting wars or religious scenes. Texts are woven into them narrating all the characters in Tim’s life.

The major themes of Perry’s work such as identity, faith and class are relevant to most societies outside of the United Kingdom as well. Some of his concerns are definitely very English but his all-encompassing themes are certainly identifiable.

The existential void & What things say about us
The existential void & What things say about us

Perry is a great chronicler of cotemporary life as he is inspired by the world around him. His work draws one in with wit, humour, emotion along with distress and anger. His subjects are real and not invented. The world we live in is a world that Perry has accomplished in representing so well and so affably through his complex and physically detailed narratives.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 16th, 2015

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