Grayson Perry explains The Vanity of Small Differences, the series of six tapestries he's created alongside the television series.
The Vanity of Small Differences consists of six tapestries that tell the story of Tim Rakewell. Some of the characters, incidents and objects I have included I encountered whilst filming All in the Best Possible Taste. The tapestries tell a story of class mobility. I think nothing has such a strong influence on our aesthetic taste as the social class we grow up in.
I am interested in the politics of consumerism and the history of popular design but for this project I focus on the emotional investment we make in the things we choose to live with, wear, eat, read or drive. Class and taste run deep in our character. We care. This emotional charge is what draws me to a subject.
Why tapestries? I always work with traditional media. Each historic category of object has accrued over time intellectual and emotional baggage. I depend on this to add inflection to the content of the works. Tapestry is the art form of grand houses. On my television taste safari I only saw tapestries hanging in stately homes. They depicted classical myths, historical and religious scenes or epic battles like Hannibal crossing the Alps.
I enjoy the idea of using this costly and ancient medium to show the commonplace dramas of modern British life. Like many of the tapestries I came across in lovely saloons, mine are woven in Flanders. Unlike their centuries old forbears, I designed them using Photoshop and they were woven at dazzling speed on a computer-controlled loom.
My primary inspiration was A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth, which in eight paintings tells the story of Tom Rakewell, a young man who inherits a fortune from his miserly father, spends it all on fashionable pursuits and gambling, marries for money, gambles away a second fortune, goes to debtors prison and dies in a madhouse. Hogarth has long been an influence on my work. I identify with his Englishness, his robust humour and his depiction of, in his own words, 'modern moral subjects'.
My secondary influence comes from perhaps my favourite form of art, early renaissance painting as encapsulated by the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. Each of my six images, to a greater or lesser extent, pays homage to a religious work.
Each image has woven within it snatches of text. Each is in the voice of a participant in the scene illustrated. Each image also features a small dog reminiscent of Hogarth's beloved pug, Trump.