Grayson Perry ‘The Life of Julie Cope’ is a unique presentation consisting of tapestries, woodcuts, ceramics and tiles designed by the Turner Prize-winning artist for ‘A House for Essex’ (2015), the building designed by the artist in collaboration with FAT Architecture. ‘A House for Essex’ serves as a secular chapel to the memory of a fictional Essex woman, Julie Cope, created by Perry. Situated overlooking the scenic Stour estuary in the village of Wrabness in north-east Essex, the house is both an artwork in itself and the setting for a number of artworks by Perry that explore the special character and unique qualities of the county.
The exhibition includes all four large-scale tapestries made for the house as well as sketchbooks, drawings and photographs that chart its development. ‘The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope’ (2015), illustrate the key events in the protagonist’s journey, from her birth on Canvey Island during the great flood of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on Colchester High Street. Overflowing with cultural and architectural detail, the tapestries contain a social history of Essex and modern Britain that reflects Firstsite’s year-long focus on contemporary identity.
The two further tapestries, made for the bedrooms at ‘A House for Essex’, are portraits of Julie and her life with each of her husbands: ‘Julie and Rob’ (2013), and ‘Julie and Dave’ (2015). Also included in the show is a series of black and white woodcuts, entitled ‘Six Snapshots of Julie’ (2015), which depict the six decades of Julie’s life.
When writing Julie’s biography, Perry looked to the English ballad and folktale tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and contradictions of the ordinary individual. These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life.’
‘A House for Essex’ was commissioned by Living Architecture, which was founded to change public perceptions about modern architecture by building houses that are rented by the public for holidays.
All images © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, London and Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd