Thursday, 15 January 2015

Who are you?

At the National Portrait Gallery in London
Grayson Perry asks us, "Who are you?"

"Who am I?"
I'm a mum, I like going to exhibitions, I love museums and galleries, I watch TV,
I like going out, occasionally I draw and make things, I like Grayson Perry.
I watched Grayson Perry on the telly, his series of the same name,
So I went with my kids to see his exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
My fifteen year old had watched the programmes with me.
At eleven the other two had gone to bed by the time it was on,
so they weren't keen but I had promised them hot chocolate and that we would also see
the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square next door.

For this exhibition, there's a route, a journey around the first floor. 
Grayson Perry talks about identity in terms of a journey,
"I have attempted to portray the character of the identity journey
they (the subjects) are facing."

You begin at Grayson Perry's self portrait, 'Map of Days'.
A self-portrait as a fortified town with walls that he suggests are his skin.
I notice that the walls are thick, heavy lines.

Very near the Map of Days was a Families Activity Base
where my younger two were given sketchbooks and a pencil each. They were happy. 

From 'A Map of Days' you head to Grayson Perry's 'Comfort Blanket'.

All things British.
Grayson Perry gives you something to "wrap yourself up in".
Things "we love, and love to hate".
I'm British, is this me?

I've never been to Number 10, Offa's Dyke or Glastonbury.

I do love a 'cuppa' though.

I queue with the best of them.

I've never met the Queen.

So who are these people in this exhibition?

'Melanie, Georgina and Sarah'
"Three women, big and proud, who want their size to be seen as positive."
Their dresses are decorated with images of food and women.
Food and self-image are so intertwined, I get that.
I don't want my daughters to get that though, they will soon enough.
Food can be glorious and so can women's bodies.

'Modern Family'.
Male parents with a mixed-race daughter.

 Grayson Perry tells us that they teach us an important lesson,
that parenting is hard work, needs thought, is not something you can take for granted.
You don't often notice good parenting, it just happens.
But there are times when you high five yourself,
little moments when you could burst with love and pride for your kids.
This family appears to be revered on a pot, canonised, enthroned in the clouds.
Hurrah for Grayson Perry, celebrating good parenting.

Kids are part of the next story too.
Four kids, I know what that involves.

'The Ashford Hijab'.
Mum, Kayleigh is a convert to Islam,

and on this hijab, Grayson Perry shows a journey from the temple of consumerism,

to Mecca across a busy road.

Watching this couple in the TV series was very moving.

'Memory Jar'. 
Alzheimer's disease, robbing this couple of memory and identity.

Memories, family photos, are being snipped away.
The thought of either myself or my husband losing memories of our life together
is something I find hard to deal with.

In our family, an older generation, some memories are slipping away, it's disconcerting.
Though I've never thought of it as an act of vandalism, ravaging with scissors,
but more of a river gradually and slowly washing away the bank.

I have to mention 'The Huhne Vase'.
Chris Huhne found fame (infamy) perverting the cause of justice,
all over a speeding offence.
Surely I can't relate to this? 

I loved what Grayson Perry had to say about this story.
"I have smashed the pot and had it repaired with gold
to symbolise that vulnerability might be an asset..."

I'm not that broken, but we all know what it is to have cracks.
But imagine being repaired, put back together with gold?
Vulnerability, gleaming and attractive, something beautiful.
As a friend said about this work,
"Grayson Perry has been very kind."
I'm not sure, having watched the programme, that Chris Huhne really got that.

As for my kids identity, for now anyway.
Not on a pot, a blanket or a hijab, those sketchbooks were very revealing.
My son, asked a new question.
"What is your story?"

He's not interested in identity, he wants genres, characters, main events.

My daughter made a list.
A visual list, collecting little bits of Grayson Perry's work.
The Queen's eye, a horse's head and The Earl of Essex.

Above are just a few of the people Grayson Perry asked, "Who are you?"
To see more, see the exhibition for yourself at the National Portrait Gallery
on until 15th march 2015.
Details on their website here.

The question remains: Who are you?

Staying with the National Portrait Gallery, I have to show this lady,
she has helped formed my identity,
as a woman,
as a voter.

Emmeline Pankhurst 1858-1928.


  1. I saw this on Saturday and thought it was an amazing exhibition. And as a bonus there's the rest of the portrait gallery too!

    1. I know. A great place. have you ever had a coffee (perhaps meal if you're feeling flush) in the Portrait Restaurant on th top floor. Brilliant roof-top views. I advise heading there for coffee before lunches start. I blogged about it "Tea and Portraits"

  2. I love this post. The exhibition looks thought-provoking. I'm riffling through the diary for a date to take the kids.
    Oh and I must say it was great to meet you in person this morning!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. With your comment & in person. Great to meet. Lets meet again in a while.

  3. It looks like a really interesting exhibition. I have never seen any of his work in person. xx

    1. Amy, you really should see his work in person and having read your posts on Basildon Park, I think you'd love the National Portrait Gallery.

  4. I love this gallery and will definitely make time to go to this exhibition. My son is working near there so I will take him! Meanwhile, much food for thought. Great post. Your son is right, your story makes you who you are. Maybe the stories of more than one life.

    1. It's great exhibition and lovely gallery, full of inspiring people (their portraits). Replying to Gina on a comment above, I've suggested getting to the Portrait Restaurant before lunches start. Amazing roof-top views. I blogged about it, "Tea and Portraits". Perhaps your son could treat you to lunch? Can't wait til mine are old enough to pay!

  5. Wow I loved this post. I've not been to the NPGallery for years but think a visit is long overdue.

    1. It's a great gallery. Hits you on two levels. Great art and some incredibly inspiring people. You can get lost in there, in your own thoughts.

  6. This is a great post, especially for those of us who will not get to see the exhibition. Really interesting and thought-provoking. Thank you. I also like your children's take on it - there is some great sketching going on there.
    I too am a fan of Emmeline Pankhurst I'm always aghast at women who don't vote, my daughter definitely will when she's old enough.

    1. Thanks for reading and very happy to take people to exhibitions and galleries they can't get to in person. Keep reading. Going to Somerset House soon, Guy Bourdin.

  7. Love this post, and love Grayson Perry... must go to see this.. thank you for posting x

    1. Thanks Julia. So chuffed you're reading my blog. I love writing it. Perhaps we should meet there?

  8. This looks so interesting. We're going to London this weekend and we might pop in to the NPG for this. I missed Grayson Perry's latest tv series but I enjoyed his previous one about social classes in Britain.
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Marion x

    1. Yes do go. Seek out the Families Activity Base to get sketchbooks and more for your girls. There are some other great activities for kids. All free, which is amazing. have a great time.

  9. Love this post, and I wish I was in London and could go to see this amazing exhibition. The Memory Jar is haunting me, as my father, 94, has dementia and his memory slowing eroding over many years. Now he has asked to live where he was as a child - it seems he has forgotten all but his very early life. He does not know who I am now.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement and support. It's great to take you to UK galleries and museums. Perhaps one day you'll be in London. I hope you find comfort and support with your father's situation. I know it can be very upsetting, plus as I've seen with friends, a lot of hard work.

  10. Thank you so much for your comment over at my place.

    I greatly enjoyed seeing this Grayson Perry exhibit when I was in London last November. It's grand to see your photographs and be reminded of Mr Perry's creative genius. I definitely recommend the exhibit to folks of all ages.


    1. Agreed. I think he is a genius and love the fact he celebrates flaws and vunerability. Glad you saw the exhibition. I'll be watching out for American galleries & exhibitions on your blog. Thanks for reading.

  11. I'm so impressed by your children. I was following a mum and teenage son around William Morris last weekend and he was obviously bored to tears. (Mind you, if I'd had his mum pontificating at me - she was the worst kind of pushy mother - I'd have been bored, too!) And then I went upstairs to Grayson Perry, and there was the poor lad again. Clearly wishing he was back home watching the football.

    1. You needn't be that impressed. I kind of dragged them there (the younger two) and the sketchbooks saved the day. Your comment made me laugh. I love to see how people (of all ages) react in galleries & museums, so I just let then get on with it. My proudest 'mum-in-a-museum-moment' happened in the Natural History Museum. I didn't realise what had happened until well after the event. The post is called B.O.R.I.N.G. You should be able to find it by clicking on Natural History Museum on the sidebar. Hope you like it.

    2. Very clever! He'll go far. Natural History Museum is on my never-again list because of that blasted shop!


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