For the past decade, artist Grayson Perry has explored what it means to be British – the turf wars, the class wars, the identity wars. Brexit. His Channel 4 documentary, ‘Divided Britain’, probed pro-Leavers and pro-Remainers on what made them vote the way they did.
Between now and December, Bristol’s Arnolfini is exhibiting some of these results, in mixed-media form – vases decorated with the faces of those he interviewed and the case studies from his social media campaign, but also the documentaries themselves, screened in the Second Floor Dark Studio.
Perry’s exhibition references his childhood, his relationship with his partner, his family, and his alter-ego, Claire.
More recently, he’s lifted the lid on gender – more specifically on what it means to be a man. Masculinity is both a label and social construct, and in contemporary Britain, it struggles to find a modern meaningful foothold. Old ideas of masculinity and femininity are continually being challenged, forever evolving. Perry delves into this tricky territory beautifully. His work shines a light on the constraints of gender, identity, and the (frankly) tenuous and limiting nature of it all.
Perhaps the piece that illustrates this most is his motorbike – Kenilworth AM1 – a pimped-up Harley-Davidson that Perry has decorated in pink and gold, with a shrine on the back for his teddy bear, Alan Measles. He rode the bike from his home in Chelmsford, Essex all the way to Bavaria – a road trip that was captured by the BBC in a programme, Grayson on his Bike. Now, said bike is on display, complete with epic mountain scenery backdrop.
“We need to examine masculinity, not just to prevent small boys from crying with rage at their impassive fathers on a mountain-bike ride, but to change the whole world for the better.”
We also need more people like Grayson Perry.
Details: Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! runs from Wednesday 27th September 2017 to Sunday 24th December 2017, 11am to 6pm, Free.
To learn more about the work of Grayson Perry, visit Artsy.