Exhibition Investigates History of Region and Masculinity; Grayson Perry and an Ill-Fated Cousin of James I Are among Contributors to a New Textiles Exhibition at Durham Cathedral, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

Exhibition Investigates History of Region and Masculinity; Grayson Perry and an Ill-Fated Cousin of James I Are among Contributors to a New Textiles Exhibition at Durham Cathedral, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports


FABULOUS garments ancient and modern are united in a new exhibition at Durham Cathedral called Textiles: Painting with the needle.

Among the venerable treasures on display are the Bishop of Durham's coronation cope and a bible cover embroidered by an aristocratic runaway who died in the Tower of London.

But the piece many people will be looking for first is secular and modern. Death of a Working Man is artist Grayson Perry's response to the culture of the North East and the miners' banners which still mean so much to so many.

This artistic twist on a coalfield there's a masculinity doesn't tradition was inspired by Perry's exploration of modern masculinity for the TV series Grayson Perry: All Man.

what to do in the 21st In episode one, Hard Man, viewers saw him travelling to the North East where he met a group of cage fighters - the ultimate macho men, you'd think - and discovered vulnerabilities lying behind the tough faces they present to the world.

The banner on loan to the cathedral shows strong North East men of past and present. A miner and a cage fighter square up to each other, fists clenched.

Beneath them there's a funeral taking place, the coffin representing the high mortality rate from mining accidents and, more recently, the high rate of suicide among young men who have struggled to find a useful role in a post-coal landscape.

The banner bears the legend: "A time to fight. A time to talk. A time to change." And below it the words: "We work for the future and grieve for the past."

Symbols of the North East give a familiar look to the skyline - The Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge, Durham Cathedral, a mighty crane and a pair of wind turbines.

And right in the middle of this is a young boy clutching a teddy bear - Grayson Perry, you'd assume, with his cuddly childhood best friend Alan Measles.

kind of that to know Grayson Perry - a transvestite and the most colourful and memorable winner of the Turner Prize, back in 2003 - seems to be everywhere at the moment. He has a new book out, The Descent of Man, which, picking up the theme of the Channel 4 series, looks at modern masculinity.

with itself Century It is a good read, funny and clearly argued. Grayson explains that while he enjoys dressing in women's clothes, he "can be a very traditionally masculine man" - competitive, territorial and sometimes keen "to get one over on other guys in petty ways".

In the book he states: "Maybe my circumstances, being a transvestite and an artist, mean that I am less invested in society's ideals of masculinity than many men and that therefore I am willing to pick them out and question them, even in myself."

Grayson Perry also has a show on the road, Typical Man in a Dress, which is why he couldn't be at Durham Cathedral for the preview of Textiles: Painting with the Needle - he was entertaining an audience of 2000 at the London Palladium on Thursday night.

But on the phone he recalled: "In looking at masculinity we came to the North East because of the kind of masculinity that arose from heavy industry and the Industrial Revolution.

"Where does it go when the industry is not there any longer? Most of the behaviours that go with that traditional sense of masculinity seem a bit redundant now.

"There's a kind of masculinity that doesn't seem to know what to do with itself in the 21st Century."

Visiting the Durham Miners' Gala he had been struck by the banners and especially the parading of them through the streets like altar pieces.

"I think they're brilliant folk art - fantastic, powerful pieces. …

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