I knew Grayson Perry as a Turner Prize winning ceramic artist, a Reith Lecturer, and even a man who dresses up in Little Bo Peep outfits, but until now I had no idea he is also a tapestry maker. His Walthamstow Tapestry, created in 2009, is currently on display at the Winchester Discovery Centre and deserves a visit.
The tapestry is 15 metres long, filling the gallery wall. Reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry, it shows a sequence of events, in this case tracing the Seven Ages Of Man, from a graphic birth to a Hell beckoning death. Along the way there is a myriad of tiny scenes from life, both contemporary and yesteryear. There are mothers and children, a yob with a knife, a fashion shoot, a car accident, a cyclist, a jet plane, a woman hanging out washing, a fox hunt, a deathbed scene, a City gent, a suicide bomber, in fascinating often amusing detail. You would need hours to explore all its stories.
Particularly interesting are the brand names that are sprinkled throughout the work. The names are all in the same font thus disconnecting them from the associations of colour and logo, so that they become generic, symbolising the way brands in general, like the threads of the tapestry, are woven into every aspect of modern life.
It's an imaginative work on an epic scale and it's also beautifully made. Perry didn't actually weave it himself. Belgian specialists did that based on his design and I have to say the weaving is superb, as luxuriously dense as anything you've seen from any era. A joy to behold in itself.
See this great work while you can- it's just been bought by a Chinese gallery so you'll have quite a trip after this week.
The Walthamstow Tapestry by Grayson Perry is displayed at the Winchester a Discovery Centre until 6 July 2014.