Two works of art by renowned artist Sir Grayson Perry have gone on display at Chelmsford Museum. ‘Untitled’ and ‘England as seen from Lockdown in Islington’ are now hanging in the ceramics gallery, which features several other pieces by the Essex-born artist.
Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford and now lives and works in London. The Turner Prize-winning artist is well known for his ceramic vases and tapestries, which often raise thought-provoking themes of national identity and key social issues. He was recently bestowed a knighthood in His Majesty The King’s New Year Honours 2023 for services to the arts.
Created in the year that Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003, ‘Untitled’, is a mixed-media composite, which the artist describes as an amalgamation of memories from childhood. The piece depicts a hybrid of rural and urban Essex – a unique portrait of Perry’s hometown of Chelmsford.
Oversized thistles in the foreground and a twisted bridge leads the viewer to two figures at the centre of the piece. The style of the work gives the impression of a flashback or a lucid dream, pulling the viewer into Perry’s mind.
Grayson Perry commented on such drawings, saying: ‘The drawings I’ve done since the early 2000s put me in contact with how I started, and with my childhood world. That for me is a big part of drawing. It links to the idea that the world of my imagination has its own culture.’
The piece was purchased by Chelmsford Museum and part funded with a grant from the Arts Council England/ V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
‘England as seen from Lockdown in Islington’
‘England as seen from Lockdown in Islington’ was created in 2021 during the Channel 4 series ‘Grayson’s Art Club’. In the series, Perry and his wife, Phillipa, teach celebrity guests how to create art.
The limited-edition print presents Perry’s personal interpretation of England, based on the cultural figures and personalities that have influenced him throughout his life. The map is drawn on rose-printed curtains, with an eyeball towards the centre marking his current home in Islington. Around the eyeball, England’s key cultural figures and places are mapped.
Grayson Perry’s birthplace of Chelmsford is also mapped, with Marconi, Tesco and Debenhams reflecting what he remembers of the area. Perry has also added his own maker’s mark to Chelmsford – possibly highlighting the city as his place of origin.
Speaking in 2022 about the work, Grayson Perry said: “When I was working on this, I was thinking about how we were all travelling in our imaginations. I’ve put the floral material in the background there. So very English. It evokes an idea of England, but a kind of trapped, slightly stifling suburban idea of England.”
The original piece has also featured in the Channel 4 series ‘Grayson Perry’s Full English’, in which Perry travels around England to try to uncover what Englishness means today.
Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford says Grayson Perry’s contributions to Chelmsford’s cultural history should not be underestimated.
“Chelmsford is incredibly proud of its rich and varied cultural history, both old and new. We know how fortunate we are to be able to share at Chelmsford Museum a rich collection of objects that tell the ongoing story of the city’s cultural development, including these new pieces by one of the UK’s best-loved artistic pioneers.”Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford.
Mark Curteis, Chelmsford Museum’s Assistant Museum Manager for Curatorial and Learning, says the new works will shed new light on Grayson Perry’s memories of Chelmsford.
“Many local residents feel a great fondness for and connection to Grayson Perry, who was born and grew up in Chelmsford and often creates works reflecting on his childhood and his memories of the area. These pieces are a great addition to our ever-growing Grayson Perry collection and will give Chelmsford residents a fresh understanding of the work of the artist and national treasure.”Mark Curteis, Assistant Museum Manager – Curatorial and Learning
Visit Chelmsford Museum to view these objects and more
You can now see these pieces, along with other Grayson Perry works such as ‘The Chelmsford Sissies’ pot and ‘Limited-edition Osprey Handbag’ at Chelmsford Museum. The museum is open every day, including bank holidays from 10am–4pm until 26 March, 10am–5pm from 27 March.
It’s a great time to visit Chelmsford Museum, with the exhibition Forecast22: Broadcasting Across the Ether still available to see in person (until 12 March). On 21 February, a supporting Panel Discussion will be taking place with leading artists, designers, and researchers, including Forecast22 artist Sian Fan. The panel will discuss the power of digital media and immersive experiences in telling stories and connecting audiences with history. Book your tickets on the museum website.
Some brand-new activities and events for children are also taking place over half term. Learn the art of sound effects in film and radio with Fun with Foley Sound Effects, 13–14 February. Or go undercover and test your detective skills with the national Montgomery Bonbon: Museum Mystery Trail.
Chelmsford Museum is free to visit. The museum team care for and conserve a large collection of objects and work to improve access to the collections through exhibitions, events, and a learning programme. Help them continue this work by leaving a donation to ensure they can continue to provide free entry for those who need it.