Grayson Perry, ‘Map of Nowhere’, 2008, Osborne Samuel

‘The starting point for this print was Thomas More’s Utopia. Utopia is a pun on the Greek ou topos meaning ‘no place’. ‘I was playing with the idea of there being no Heaven. People are very wedded to the idea of a neat ending: our rational brains would love to tidy up the mess of the world and to have either Armageddon or Heaven at the end of our existence.
But life doesn’t work like that - it’s a continuum.’ [1]

Prints are no secondary art form for Grayson Perry, they are considered, large-scale final pieces. A vocal advocate of therapy and analysis, in the Map of Nowhere Perry explores his own belief system; His opinions contend with those he finds crowding around him in wider society. The print’s grand proportions encompass the artist’s taste for niggling detail.
Perry started the drawing in the top left-hand corner, and worked towards the bottom right-hand corner, without planning the in-between; instead ideas were allowed to emerge, leading from one to another, through the drawing process.

As also seen in his subsequent major etchings, Map of an Englishman (2004) or his ‘playscape’, Print for a Politician (2005), Perry prefers to leave ink on the plate during the printing process; he avoids creating too crisp an image in order to evoke an antique look. Perry is yoking his map to its historical pedigree. With this etching, Perry is working from a big historical model rather than one from fine art: the medieval mappa mundi (map of the world) provides a recognisable template. As pre-Columbian diagrams, they would illustrate a sum of knowledge, acting as both instructive and decorative objects, making connections vivid and comprehensible. The Map of Nowhere is based on a famous German example, the Ebstorf Map, which was destroyed in the Second World War. It showed Jesus as the body of the world, with his head, hands
and feet marking four equidistant points around the circle.

Perry spikes the tradition with contemporary social comment. Within a circular scheme, like the Ebstorf Map, or the existent Hereford Mappa Mundi (www.herefordcathedral.org), he presents a flattened-out analysis of his world - from jibes about current affairs to the touchstones of his personal life. Where the Ebstorf Map has the world unfolding around Jerusalem, Perry’s personal world view encompasses a cacophony of ideas and preoccupations, with ‘Doubt’ right at the centre. The artist’s alter ego Claire gets a sainthood, while people pray at the churches of global corporations: Microsoft, Starbucks, Tescoes. Tabloid cliches abound, each attached to a figure or building: ‘the new black’, ‘kidults’, ‘binge drinking’, having-it-all’. Top right, the ‘free-market-economy’ floats untethered, preempting the credit crunch that was to take hold in the autumn of 2008. All-over labels demand that the map is read - or quizzed - close up. This is a clearly articulated satire, and while Perry adopts a medieval confusion of scale and proportion, the diagrammatic style is as adamant as its religious forerunners. Beneath, there is a drawing of figures on a pilgrimage, set in a realistic landscape. They are at final staging post before making their way up to a monastery at the top of a mountain beyond, which is hit by a beam of light, coming from the artist’s bottom.

[1] Jackie Klein, Grayson Perry (Thames and Hudson, London 2009), p.162

Signature: Signed & numbered verso

About Grayson Perry

Winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, Grayson Perry creates ceramics and other objects that explore diverse historical and contemporary themes. Drawn in by the beauty of his objects, which are covered with sgraffito drawing, handwritten and stenciled text, transferred photographs, and sumptuous glaze, at close range viewers apprehend darker subjects and narrative hints to environmental disaster and child abuse. Autobiographical references to the artist's childhood, family, and transvestite alter ego Claire are intertwined with his political and allegorical references, creating a challenging conflict between his dark themes and the rich beauty of his works.

British, b. 1960, Chelmsford, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom