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In review: Grayson Perry’s, The Vanity of Small Differences by Bethany Daniels

Read a review of East Gallery’s latest exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences by BA (Hons) Photography student Bethany Daniels.

NUA’s East Gallery is known for showcasing amazing artwork, and it has not fallen short with the latest exhibition by Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences. I will be exploring the series of tapestries that look at social class, and the effects it has on individuals as well as the adverse effects of consumerist culture and taste in Britain.

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The title of the artwork can be seen as a duality, with a physical and psychological meaning, demonstrated through the relationships seen throughout the artwork, but also through items found in each piece pushing the concept of the materialistic culture.

I found the exhibition to be eye-opening, with the journey through each large-scale tapestry you move through the rises and falls of ‘Tim Rakewell’ the fictional character who is the focus of Grayson’s work. The tapestries themselves are a collage of Britain, with each piece showing a different part of country that inspired his work such as Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds. These alternating locations provided contrasting inspiration of the lives of different social classes across Britain in order to gage the differing lifestyles. The relatable elements of Grayson’s work provide a homely feel for viewer’s throughout, as no matter your background, features of your life is visible in the tapestries.

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As a society we are caught up with class and the significant divides they face, this is seen through each piece of work as we watch ‘Tim Rakewell’ climb the social ladder. We see him to begin swapping out previous belongings for luxuries. Physically, the aspects of collecting material wealth through sports cars and designer clothes feeds into a human yearning to be desired. While the psychological element plays on the fact that the collecting of physical luxuries might give you yourself a feeling of self-importance. However, the actual impact it has on your own livelihood and others is minuscule. Tim Rakewell’s motives pushes him towards a middle class setting, pursuing his individual needs and personal happiness at whatever cost. Even to the point of death.

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The work provides an insightful look at the struggles we face as a society, balancing the careful line between individual wants and needs and being a productive member of society. Grayson Perry has managed to encapture important messages through the use of his visual artwork and style, allowing many people to both question and relate to his pieces on a personal level.