I was brought up in a loving home but with little exposure to life beyond our working-class bubble. Little wonder that at 14 I wanted to be an actor but had no clue how you became an actor (that’s a story for another day), or at 18 I chose to leave education and “get a job” as I believed that going to art college was pointless. The adults in my life were nurses, hairdressers, secretaries, engineers and as for “uncle” Roy, I don’t think anyone really knew what he did!
It’s understandable that committing to a truly creative life has been somewhat difficult for me. Add to this my limited exposure to contemporary art or creative careers and it’s easy for me to see why I have the internal blocks I have. The only exposure I had at home growing up was a fake Constable print in our lounge and watching Rofl Harris create murals and later constant feedback from my husband that he only really liked detailed paintings of boats and barges. I had a great art teacher at school and whilst we could call him a modern painter, he still strongly perpetuated the myth of “high art” – art that was somehow better than that produced by a hobbyist – the art of those who exhibit in the Tate or Royal Academy. Whilst I have tried to break down the internal barriers I have to making “art” the external and institutional barriers remain…but there seems to be a shift.
If you have any connection to the world of art and painting you will know that Grayson Perry has curated this year Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Like him or not, he is changing art, our perception of what art is and what art can do for society.
Given my rather narrow art upbringing and lack of formal art education, going to the summer exhibition always blows my mind. However, this year it was completely dismantled and I’m not sure it will reform in the same way as before.
Next to classic paintings by academicians like Cumming and Howard we find a plastic pink panther stretched across a canvas. Next to a Tracey Emin we find a little painting of a man’s dog on a bike. Sunday painters were displayed equally alongside established and successful artists of known standing. There was a carpeted bear and all sorts of other fantastical creatures. Nothing was left unturned and it was refreshing and enlivening.
As an artist I felt greater freedom to make work however I see fit. Whilst Grayson’s world is not everyone’s cup of tea, he has done a great service to the art of the ordinary man, woman and anyone else who feels compelled to create. There are no rules, not really, and whilst the establishment is still likely to protect the world of high art it has created, hopefully exhibitions like this will help us all to explore our creativity in much more diverse ways.