‘All he said was Mother. All that money and he dies in the Gutter.’
– Grayson Perry, in ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, 2015
Last Thursday, I went on a trip to see the work of Grayson Perry. although I have heard of, and sen his work on the internet, I have never experienced it in the flesh. The exhibition in question, entitled ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ explores the fictional story of a lower class man as he rises into the upper classes, and becomes a famous software engineer. It explores the notion of class, and societal status, and how these ‘small differences’ can cause upset, hatred, and xenophobia within society. The pieces, six tapestries showcasing the fictional character’s life from childhood u until his death, are massive, symbolic images of the social condition. The works resonated deep within me as well, as I can see my own society within them; I come from a lower class area within the Rhondda Valleys, and have seen the way that people move from one ‘class’ to another. Standing there, in front of the final tapestry, detailing the end of the character’s life; struck deep within me. I stood there for a good half hour, staring into the tapestry, and soaking up the sheer tragedy of it’s subject matter. Here, the ‘hero’ has moved from his lower classes, and become a multi-millionaire. As he attempts to race another middle-aged man at the lights to show off, he crashes, and dies in the arms of a stranger. The paramedic clutches him, and all he can utter is the word ‘mother’; Who he spent his early childhood attempting to gain the attention of. The final line; ‘all that money and he dies in the gutter’, is so prominent, and so powerful, that it almost reduced me to tears.
Much lie this painting that I saw upstairs within the same gallery (the Victoria Art Gallery), The pieces are romantic in nature; referencing classical painting compositions and techniques, in order to reference the past, and yet also reference the present. Here, the tragedy of the romantics is brought to the present day, and explored through the imagery and tragedy of modern day Britain, and it’s excessive failings within the class system.
‘Love and Death’ – David Inshaw, 2000
Another piece which caught my attention was this painting by David Inshaw, the juxtaposition of the two types of fire; that of a firework, a joyous symbol of celebration, and that of Fire, Destructive and consuming. This duality of forces is of great interest to me, as I am interested within the story of Frankenstein, and it’s use of both Fire and Light as important plot points. The role of Fire as a means of purification, and transcendence; through the burning of the vessel that holds the spirit, has inspired me to explore decaying the object that I am growing my crystals on, as a means of destruction and consumption by this force; and yet, also allowing the cycle to begin once more. The crystals spread ‘like wildfire’ and tend to cover anything that they can seep onto. I am also interested in the notion of ‘light’, both through enlightenment, and the ‘lightning bolt’, which is used as a metaphorical tool to showcase the moment in ‘Frankenstein; when Dr.Frankenstein understands what he must do to create life. The lightning bolt, within this scene, obliterates a tree; another living being, and also a symbol of the sublime beauty of Nature (used often as a symbolic image by the Romantics), is destroyed by this force of nature (In much the same way that Frankenstein is torn apart by his misuse of nature).