The vanity of small differences

It’s been a pretty quiet couple of weeks on the blog front, due to an unusually busy time at work. I was lucky enough to get a promotion just a few days after my daughter was born which meant that I could move to working four days a week whilst still earning  the same as my old job. Also, it’s rare that I have to work more hours than I’m paid for which is regular thing for many people. So my work/life balance is generally very good, but when I do get the odd week where I have to work a lot of extra hours it’s hard to find time for anything else (I do wonder how fathers who have to work ridiculous hours on a regular basis manage).

Anyhow, whilst my daughter has had plenty of exposure to music in her young life, last weekend was her first exposure to the visual arts. At Temple Newsam, a stately home and farm in Leeds, they are currently exhibiting ‘The Vanity of Small Differences‘ a series of six tapestries by Grayson Perry, the making of which was featured in a Channel 4 documentary a couple of years ago. I watched the programme at the time and was fascinated by the thought processes and production processes involved, so always hoped I would get to see them one day. The tapestries depict a young man’s progress through the UK class system, starting off in a working-class house in Sunderland, then making his millions in the technology industry, before his untimely demise. I loved the exhibition. The tapestries are so rich and vivid and full of detail and colour that I can’t do them justice in words, but I can say that viewing tapestry five ‘The Upper Class at Bay, or an Endangered Species Bought Down’ was particularly apt in a stately home, full of portraits of upper class men out hunting and dogs savaging a variety of animals:

Grayson Perry

The exhibition made me feel surprisingly emotional, in particular tapestry three, ‘The Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close’. This depicts the moment when the ‘hero’ leaves his working class roots behind and joins the middle classes with the attendant dinner parties and all the correct products.My wife and I would both consider ourselves lower middle class and thus often feel ourselves trapped between two worlds, and this tapestry depicts that feeling perfectly. I think the reason it made me emotional is that it made question what exactly it is I’m striving for in life. There is part of me does want to own all the ‘right’ things and be considered middle class (no matter how much I might like to deny it), but another part of me that reacts so strongly against that.

Grayson Perry 2

Art has interested me, entertained me, fascinated me and made me think, but rarely does it make me feel emotional in that way. Music has always bought out my emotions more, which is partially why I have devoted so much more of my time to it.

So, that’s my opinion of the exhibition, but what about my daughter? She was vaguely interested in the massive pigs on the farm and seemed to be taking a lot in as we wandered round the stately home, but as soon as we reached the exhibition she fell asleep in her baby carrier. This may have been her way of stating her opinion, and in a much lower word count than I have managed. She also took great delight in tearing up the exhibition guide in the cafe afterwards, so it seems reasonable to assume she was not a fan. Ah well, in another few years maybe.

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