Written on an arch, Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry, gives the sense of entering a house, secret garden or place of habitation. Julie, according to the artist who created her, Grayson Perry, is the Essex everywoman. Someone whose ordinarity he wishes to celebrate.
Minute details within the tapestry give the story its weight
The exhibition at Dovecot Studios is the first time the Turner Prize-winning artist has exhibited in Scotland, bringing his art to the leading international tapestry studio.
Written onto tablets of stone, resembling Moses' Ten Commandments, is The Ballad of Julie Cope. Beside each one are tapestries, larger than ceiling height, resting at an angle on wooden pallets. Walking through the exibition we hear Perry's narrative 'The Ballad' as we observe the textiles.
These tapestries, all made on a digital jacquard loom, are imposing - three occupy an entire room. They are impressive and mesmerising pieces of work, originally designed for A House for Essex. Minute details within the tapestry give the story its weight. From the empry Fruit Pastilles packet to the cassette tapes scattered on top of a car bonnet, documenting every chapter in her life, from her husband's adultery to re-marrying and even her death.
The leads to a final room, and the last part of the story, which includes looms, sketches from other moments of Julie's life. It also includes a wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, especially made for Dovecot by architect Charles Holland. Catalogued within are artifacts, such as figurines, sketches and a snowglobe, which does add that extra element of necessary detail.
As someone who both lived and worked in Essex, I know "Julie", and she comes in variations of Perry's fictional character. However, herein lies my one issue with the narrative - this is not Perry's story. I wonder why it's not "John Cope's Grand Tour". I keep wondering, would the real life Julie Cope have told this story differently? Also, in light of these pieces coming from the 'A House for Essex', I did expect to see the tapestries presented with the theatre that the architectural structure which Manningtree exudes.