I’m finally reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and I can’t put it down; when it comes to history, I’ve become a developed a bit of a royal obsession, and Henry VIII is one of the most fascinating. Narrated by Thomas Cromwell (who’s usually made out to be a bad dude and is eventually beheaded, spoiler), the book chronicles Henry’s break with the holy Roman empire to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn — and all the religious mayhem, persecution of witches and heretics, Lutheranism, and deaths that followed. It was a very provocative time to question religion, I’ll say that much.
Which brings me to artist Grayson Perry: inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia (who also plays a big part in Wolf Hall), he created his own version of the gorgeous, flattened Medieval maps of heaven, hell, and the earth like the Hereford Mappa Mundi — the largest medieval map known to exist. The result is a complex illustration filled with symbols, messages, and lots of tongue-in-cheek references. It also looks really cool.
“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’… 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.”
In the video below he explains his ideas for the “Map to Nowhere.” P.S. Grayson Perry also curated the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at the British Museum — I wish I could have seen that!