Bath Student Study Day: Gold & Grayson Perry Tapestries

On 23rd January, a small group of photography and textiles students met in Bath to visit the Holburne Gallery and the Victoria Gallery to view the current exhibitions of “Gold” , from the Royal Collection and the Grayson Perry tapestries, “The Vanity of Small Differences”.  One could say a juxtaposition of topics.

Holburne Gallery

The Gold exhibition explores how the exquisiteness of gold is represented throughout art.  The exhibition which is beautifully curated, draws from every department of the Royal Collection.  The exhibits themselves range from the ostentatiousness of a gold charger weighing a hefty 8.8kg (19lbs) and still used in Buckingham Palace, to the simplicity of a bronze age pure gold cup (my favourite exhibit). (accessed 29.1.2016)


20160123-_1080558 (accessed 29.1.16)

The exhibition was divided into three areas of spirituality, power and status.  There was a huge lions head “donated” to William IV by the East India Company having previously belonged to Sultan Tipu and formed the centre piece of his magnificent throne.  Even the most simplest of exhibits represented ostentatiousness and demonstrations of wealth such as the delightful opera glasses encrusted with pearls and diamonds.  There were exquisitely gold embossed book covers, the place gold has in painting as well as several gold bowls, pieces of jewellery and gold gilt tables.  Not normally an exhibition I would have visited but found it fascinating and beautiful.

We also visited the main gallery where there was an exhibition of Michael Eden’s 3d printing which was fascinating. Inspired by 18th century pottery Eden manages to place his ideas firmly in the 21st century with witty titles and modern technology.


These exhibitions have opened my eyes to objects in art that I would not have given a great deal of attention to.

Victoria Gallery

The Vanity of Small Differences is a well known set of tapestries by Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry.  The six tapestries in the series featured Channel 4’s three-part series, All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry shown in June 2012  where Perry explores British taste as an inspiration for his art.

In the six panels of The Vanity of Small Differences Perry relates the rise and fall of a technology magnate and consists of the characters, incidents and objects.  I had the sense in the gallery that Perry was sitting somewhere looking on with amusement as we all identified with on various aspects of the tapestries.  It starts with the birth of Tim Rakewell in Sunderland and follows his life from humble working class beginnings through his university days and on to his country retreat in The Cotswolds.

Perry’s influence of the “Englishness” portrayed by Hogarth and Renaissance painting is evident in the tapestries.  Each tableaux relates to a religious

The Vanity of Small Differences tells the story of the rise and demise of Tim Rakewell and is composed of characters, incidents and objects Perry encountered on journeys through Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds. Hogarth has long been an influence on Perry’s work and this exhibition is heavily influenced by “A Rake’s Progress”.  He also manages to link scenes to mainly Renaissance paintings. The tapestries also include a narrative woven into each tapestry spoken by one of the characters.

A magnificent piece of work which is powerful, political, humorous and thought provoking.  A most creative way of linking existing influences and interests to tell the story. (accessed 29.1.16)

With both of these exhibitions I have learnt a lot about how art is produced and perceived and what purpose it might have for the artist as well as the perception of the viewer.






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