This weekend my review of a special event by Touchstones Rochdale, hosted at Faling Park High school, appeared in the Rochdale Observer. You can read the slightly longer version of the review here:
Touchstones, Rochdale has been hosting the wonderful “Vanity of small differences” exhibition of tapestries by Grayson Perry.
A virtual audience with Grayson Perry, hosted at Falinge Park High School gave local people an opportunity to listen to the artist a virtual audience was held at Falinge Park High School hosted by students Isra and Aliah who introduced the artist with great confidence.
During the periods of Covid-19 lockdown, Perry, winner of the 2003 Turner prize for his exquisite ceramics, has become well know to television viewers through his Art Club Series. His 2012 Channel 4 television series, “All in the best possible taste with Grayson Perry”, was an examination of taste and class around the country and The Vanity of small differences is a set of six very large tapestries developed from that.
Grayson Perry, on a large screen courtesy of modern technology, spoke about how this series of artworks about class and taste came about. In the 19th century art was largely the preserve of gentleman painters and very much an upper-middle class intellectual pursuit and Perry has spent his career trying to correct that and democratise art; “In art everybody’s opinion is valid”. Influences for the work come from The Rakes Progress by Hogarth and lots of references to Renaissance religious paintings.
Having heard the stories behind each of the tapestries, and how the images were developed through sketches, collage and final designs in Photoshop before the physical tapestries were machine woven by a specialist company in Flanders, audience members asked questions:
Does art still have the power to change the way people think? “Yes, especially TV and things with really big audiences, less so for ceramics and tapestries. I set out to make art because I liked making it, I never set out to make art to influence people”.
How does he feel about the exclusion of arts from the school curriculum? “It is a tragedy; the arts help you to live a good life”. As chancellor of the University of the Arts this is really important to him.
Would it be worth living in a world or society without art? “The short answer is No!”. The longer answer spoke of the primal importance of art, how that even in the most primitive societies people were allowed to spend valuable time making art; that’s a measure of its importance. Art is all about telling our stories and that is essential.
How can we get more young people interested in art? “By having some empathy for the audience, including young people, but certainly not by dumbing it down to the point where people get bored”.
His final comment on art; “You don’t have to like it all”.
Grayson Perry had certainly displayed an empathy of this remote Rochdale audience and we left filled with inspiration and enthusiasm, and if we pass that on to others then the event was a great success.
Lisa Alen, Touchsones/YourTrust Rochdale
Falinge Park High School
Further information can be found on the Arts Council England website – https://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/exhibition/grayson-perry-vanity-small-differences-0