I began by exploring the Grayson Perry tapestry series ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ (2012). The appeal of these tapestries is their scale. Their grandeur is powerful, creating an impact as you walk into the room. In addition to Perry’s attention to detail, there are many references to places, classes, and other artworks, all of which merge together creating a fascinating collection of cultural references. Perry’s obvious understanding of how British culture is classified is oddly accurate, in such a way that I am able to fit myself and some people I know into different areas of his tapestries; a sensation which is a bit unsettling, because as a society we tend not to want to be categorized.
The third tapestry in Perry’s series appealed to me the most, for a variety of reasons. It could be that I instantly recognised the painting Perry was referencing in his composition of this tapestry (The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden-1425). It could also be that perhaps I subconsciously consider myself middle class, nestled between Perry’s depiction of the ‘new’ middle class (left) and his ‘established’ middle class (right). Either way, I focused on the details this tapestry in particular.
After watching ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’ the Channel 4 TV program, which followed Perry’s research process for the creation of these tapestries. I specifically remembered someone Perry met, who inspired part of his third tapestry. It was a (middle class) woman who was immensely proud of her William Morris wallpaper.
Therefore, I went on to research William Morris and some of his well-known designs, including the one Perry incorporated in his tapestry (‘Willow Bough’). I also came across some of Morris tapestries, a few of which included ‘acanthus’ leaves. These leaves then became a further area of research for me, as I began to notice them in more of Morris’s designs, as well as in other forms of decoration not by Morris. I personally noticed many acanthus leaf designs around Cardiff. (Below – acanthus on the Pierhead building at Cardiff Bay)
Acanthus decoration has been adopted by many cultures, appearing in textiles and architecture all over the world for centuries. It is not widely expressed, but the acanthus could be a symbol of immortality – rebirth – longevity and healing, due to their apparent healing properties. This leaf has had widespread use but, it is not obvious as to why.
I adopted this leaf as a means to explore the process of etching; experimenting with different coloured inks and surfaces. I also worked into my prints using paint and stitch. (Below – a selection of some of my prints)
This project has gone off on a bit of a tangent, exploring William Morris and Acanthus leaves. My intention for this project has always been to explore pattern, however the aesthetic I have been looking at up to this point is far from what I want to be exploring. Moving forward I am going to research a more minimal form of repetitive pattern. I am interested in process and materials, as well as how art can influence the viewer.
(Artists: Frank Stella, Yayion Kusama & Robert Morris)