This month, Firstsite, Colchester, will open its latest exhibition – The Life of Julie Cope – showcasing works by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry. It will feature four large-scale tapestries, as well as material related to A House for Essex (2015), the building designed by Perry in collaboration with Charles Holland of FAT Architecture.
An ornate ceramic-clad, gingerbread-like edifice, A House for Essex serves as a secular chapel to the memory of a fictional Essex woman, Julie Cope. 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 works by Perry that explore the special character and unique qualities of the county.
The show at Firstsite will be a unique presentation consisting of tapestries, woodcuts, ceramics and tiles designed for the House as well as sketchbooks and photographs that chart its development.
Included are The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015), on loan from the Crafts Council Collection. The two major tapestries 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.
Sally Shaw, Director of Firstsite, said: "The Life of Julie Cope is an intimate and personal exploration of an ‘average’ life – one which is made all the more poignant by the fact that Grayson Perry’s artistic creation is, like himself, from Essex.
"The protagonist's life story, as told through the various works, is both sad and funny, reflective and rowdy, real and surreal, triggering reflections in the minds of the viewers that transcend the subject matter. Grayson Perry is one of the most renowned British contemporary artists and we are honoured to be staging this major presentation of his work at Firstsite."
The Life of Julie Cope runs from 18 November 2017 until 18 February 2018. For more details, visit firstsite.uk.
Main image: Photo © Jack Hobhouse, Courtesy Living Architecture