AN exhibition of work from one of the UK’s favourite artists is on show in Sunderland.
Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens is hosting Turner prize winner Grayson Perry’s The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope until Sunday, November 4.
The exhibition consists of two large-scale, striking tapestries shown alongside a graphic installation and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000-word narrative written and read by Perry that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life. The artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’.
The tapestries were made for the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House and later acquired by the Craft Council, supported by Art Fund with contributions from The Wolfson Foundation and private donors.
Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry – an Essex everywoman inspired by those he grew up with and whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in the exhibition. The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street.
Rich in cultural and architectural details, the artworks contain a social history of Essex and modern Britain. Perry created the rich visual story on a computer and then worked with a digital mediator and tapestry weavers to translate the 1970s colour palette of his original digital drawings into a woven textile.
Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections and Archives Manager at Sunderland Museum, said: “The exhibition is already proving popular and we’re delighted to be hosting work of such national significance.
“When Perry’s Vanity of Small Differences tour began here in 2013, it was hugely successful – attracting more than 123,000 visitors, the most we’ve ever had to an exhibition.
“He appears to have an affinity for the city, and in turn, Wearsiders seem to love his work.”
Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture and Communities, said: “Grayson Perry’s last exhibition in the city went down a storm with people in Sunderland and I think there’ll be a lot of interest in this one too. He has such a wonderful way of telling stories in a way that’s really easy to relate to.”
Perry visited the city for his Channel 4 programme All in the Best Possible Taste and based the subject matter for his first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park on the places and characters he found here.