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Bitchin' Stitchin' Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry's tapestries, The Vanity of Small Differences roll up and are soon to be rolled up in Birmingham, UK

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by Lee Paul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: April, 2014
The Vanity of Small Differences. It smells. It burns.

Grayson Perry
The Vanity of Small Differences
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Free Admission (but worth way more)
Until May 11th


I was in the shower writing this on a supposedly waterproof phone I'd been given to write about. I was trying to wash the burning smell from my hair. The smokiness of it all. I'd seen Grayson Perry's Social Mobility(?) tapestries, The Vanity of Small Differences, at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the city in the early part of the afternoon and came back and decided to burn everything I'd ever previously written. Ms Z. had just returned my recycled washing machine cylinder incinerator after polishing it up for her exhibition at the NEC and had parked it up the garden. It was raring to go. It still took a whole edition of the TV Choice and a six foot long poster tube I used to create that nice wigwam pyre effect to generate enough heat, to get an old damp destroyed fence panel going, however, once I added my 2nd generation white macbook, containing a decade of short stories and unfinished novels it gave off such a stink, such masses of what may or may not be toxic smoke, I had to retreat from the burning and inside to wash my hair.

At some point, Grayson Perry will most likely be declared one of those Greatest Living Englishmen, perhaps the greatest since Bobby Moore or Notting Hill era Hugh Grant or Idris Elba as Stringer Bell a few tears back. But I don't like his hair. Yes it's nice when he gives it some attention, a slide or a hairband, but the unkempt bob, I don't fancy it much. Nice legs though, I think everyone would agree. I wonder whether he jogs?

The Vanity of Small Differences consists of six vivid tapestries concerning themselves with Grayson's sometimes preoccupation with taste and social mobility and you know, the Lion King Circle of Life type thing as Baby X's baptism padre portrayed it. The tapestries were informed by Perry's Channel 4 TV show, All in the Best Possible Taste in 2012, and feature the sites and sounds of the series entwined around the rise and demise of his central protagonist the beautifully named Timothy Rakewell. Tim, born into a Sunderland open prison of conformity, soared as a software developer eventually ensconced in the home counties, to meet an untimely end, untimely for him in a Cotswold gutter, as I read it. It's debatable as to whether there is anything as unsightly as a gutter remains in the Cotswolds, so...

The tapestries were "Conceived them as a public work that reflected the nature of contemporary Britain," Perry says. If only life were fractionally so Fantastic. Within, there is an entire totally astonishing graphic novel of detail I can't describe here but must be seen to be believed. Details, details details. And truly as lovingly misanthropic as they maybe, there is a tapestry for the wall behind every sofa in every home. Mine would be the snarling starving dogs ravaging the landed gentry. Quite entertaining. And, if you've lived your entire life between Crescent Heights and Doheny well, at least you can admire the bitchin' stitchin'.

So. Behind your sofa or tattoo'd inside a cabinet ministers eyelids or in Birmingham's grand museum, all great places to see Grayson Perry's tapestries.

Until May 11th, Admission is Free
More: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

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Lee Paul

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