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'Shared Identities': Grayson Perry Youth Review

We were delighted to welcome emerging young artists from Creative Youth Network to a press tour with Grayson Perry at the exhibition opening last month. They've shared their responses with us, take a look.

Grayson Perry Exhibition Tour 


Emma Hughes 

I see Grayson Perry on the street. He is wearing a cheesecloth dress and looks harried and stressed. Some young dude in an old levi jacket takes a picture of his back and snickers.

“BLARHGHHH - Ok, lets go”

I follow Grayson Perry around the gallery with 20 other people hanging on to every word. He dances around in front of Object in Foreground and talks about the changing landscape of masculinity. He speaks of the dying manly man left over from the deindustrialisation of Britain and I think of the dude on the street in his worn out Levi jacket and wonder if he understands why his jacket is cool.

“A masculine pantomime”
A deindustrialised hangover.

I feel Grayson Perry’s fondness for the British people and I think of the damaging retrospective nationalist ideals in those who voted leave as he speaks about his Matching Pair. Everyone likes blue and everyone likes walking their dog. Not everyone likes Winston Churchill and not everyone likes Obama. Everyone likes a full cooked English Breakfast. Grayson encourages a focus on our shared identities and I think of my own efforts to shop locally and ethically and mostly acknowledge that retrospective national ideology.

“Just because your politics is good doesn't mean your art is good for christs sake!”

I watch Grayson Perry amongst his artwork. I look at his colours and the shapes and I listen to his politics. 

Marcin Gawin 

"The picture was my immediate response to Perry's fascination with Christian kitsch and folklore. Having an orthodox Catholic upbringing in Poland's Spiritual capital with deeply rooted cult of masculinity and nationalism, I find it interesting and quite problematic how people like to wallow in their identities, let it be Britishness, gayness or celebrityness."


Maisie Evans 

Dear Grayson Perry

I came to your exhibition tour, with yourself, on Tuesday the 26th September and you probably don’t know who I am. That was actually the second time seeing this exhibition.

I first was saw your latest exhibition at the Serpentine in London sometime over summer on a day trip with my dad. Honestly, the aim of the trip was to see Hokusai at the Great British Museum as we had bought pre-paid tickets, but as yours was free we popped along to have a look.I don’t know much about art but I definitely found your pieces visually pleasing and I could tell they had meaning behind them but I wasn’t quite sure of exactly what they were trying to portray, but I didn't care because they looked good and, as I got the experience for free, I felt as though I was in positive net ‘cultural capital’.

When I saw you at the Arnolfini, with a guided tour by yourself, I was drawn in by your brief explanations of each piece. This left me with some food for thought and questions. This was quite a different experience.

It was very clever of you to bring the bull and the bear into your piece about masculinity in the city. I really respect your reference to economics especially John Maynard Keynes's Animal Spirits. I am studying economics at A-level and it is a little bit soul destroying in that some parts really are all about money and profit, however Keynes says that ultimately the decisions we make are down to our spontaneous optimism and not just a mathematical equation to maximise utility. The idea of Animal Spirits brings a human element into the mechanical nature of the banking system and the finance industry. I find it hard to get my head round especially as those ‘humans’, due to the pursuit of their personal interest, collectively caused the financial crisis which affected all people and not just them? Anyway it reminded me that decisions are generally made by humans and humans, by nature, can change and evolve. In a roundabout kind of way it gave me a tiny bit of hope that things could change in the future, so thankyou.

I really liked your matching pair brexit pots too. When I first came to see your exhibition, I did not realise that one was made for remainers and one for brexiteers. However in the tour you explained how they each reflect snippets of identity from the opposing sides of the brexit debate. You also said that they both look fairly similar overall and share a lot of identity without focussing on the detail. I wondered if this was you artists impression and interpretation of the issue or if this is actually the case. It got me thinking of myself, and the side I stood for, and my negativity towards the those that voted the other side. I like that you highlighted that we all share so much identity aside from this one issue, and that regardless of whether we voted brexit or not that does not define who we are.

I think in debates we sometimes have to be reminded that we are challenging the opinion of the other side, and not their whole being and identity. Likewise when someone in the other side challenges us, we should not take it to heart and believe we are invalid, but remember that only one opinion you stand for has been challenged and not your whole self.

It was awesome to see you in the flesh during the tour of your exhibition, You have
charisma, you are eloquent and you have great public speaking skills. I found it a bit strange because you are quite famous now. In my opinion, one of the reasons for this is how your work speaks to a lot of people in a deep kind of way. Yet when I saw you talking about it at Arnolfini I felt as though this was not reflected in the way you spoke to us. You were distant and untouchable, despite physically only being a foot or so in front of me. As though you were inside a glass bubble. I have to admit this left me feeling slightly bitter about the genuine nature of your work.

However in reflection, I realise now that art is a means of communication. And that you take people’s messages and experience and they get transformed, by you, into a piece of art. That piece then speaks for itself and is not necessarily intended to go alongside an experience of you explaining what it is meant to portray. The art communicates for itself.

Anyway I love your work, and I love your process of how you explore topical issues such as masculinity and brexit. Thank you for coming to Bristol.

Yours sincerely,


Emma,  Marcin and Maisie are young emerging artists taking part in the Creative Futures Programme at Creative Youth Network. Learn more here

Creative Youth Network helps young people, no matter what their background or circumstances, to reach their own potential.


What's your response to Grayson Perry's work and exhibition at Arnolfini? Share you thoughts, ideas and photos using #GraysonPerry

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Saturday 21 September 2019, 11:00 to 18:00


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