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11th January 2018
Hiking - Walking: Grayson Perry Art, Colchester
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Weather: cloudy with drizzle.
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Distance Covered: 3 miles (Nautical Miles - unless stated otherwise)

Thursday 11th January – walk **** Grayson Perry Art, Colchester – cloudy with drizzle.

Last year on local TV, I saw that Grayson Perry, an English Contemporary artist and well known cross dresser, was exhibiting four large tapestries at the ‘Firstsite’ Gallery in Colchester. Our friend Mary really wanted us to go to the exhibition and gave us some money for Christmas to encourage us some more! Having got Christmas out of the way, and as we are going away to the mountains soon, we are running out of time to get there. Even though we woke to yet more cloud and drizzle we decided to pack a sandwich and head for Colchester. We had to fill up with diesel in Ipswich but quickly covered the 30 miles to Colchester, parking at the Leisure centre car park.
It’s a nice walk across the River Colne through Castle Park past the famous castle made even more enjoyable by the vast number of chubby squirrels we saw! Just across the road is the very modern ‘Firstsite’ building- an arch of metal and glass but the best thing being, free entry:)
As Grayson Perry is an Essex born artist telling the story of his fictional heroine ‘Julie Cope’, he has built a fantasy cottage which links into the story on the banks of the River Stour at Wrabness. We hope to visit this one day as well - I can’t believe I haven’t seen it while windsurfing on the Stour!
A little background:
Grayson Perry ‘The Life of Julie Cope’ is a unique presentation consisting of tapestries, woodcuts, ceramics and tiles designed by the Turner Prize-winning artist for ‘A House for Essex’ (2015), the building designed by the artist in collaboration with FAT Architecture. ‘A House for Essex’ serves as a secular chapel to the memory of a fictional Essex woman, Julie Cope, created by Perry. 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 artworks by Perry that explore the special character and unique qualities of the county.
The exhibition will include all four large-scale tapestries made for the house as well as sketchbooks, drawings and photographs that chart its development. ‘The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope’ (2015), 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.
The two further tapestries, made for the bedrooms at ‘A House for Essex’, are portraits of Julie and her life with each of her husbands: ‘Julie and Rob’ (2013), and ‘Julie and Dave’ (2015). Also included in the show is a series of black and white woodcuts, entitled ‘Six Snapshots of Julie’ (2015), which depict the six decades of Julie’s life.
When writing Julie’s biography, Perry looked to the English ballad and folktale tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and contradictions of the ordinary individual. These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life.’
‘A House for Essex’ was commissioned by Living Architecture, which was founded to change public perceptions about modern architecture by building houses that are rented by the public for holidays.
We walked past the café and bookshop around the curved walls painted with huge trees and soon found the four large tapestries which are just amazing in brilliant, vibrant, colours. There was a tape playing of Grayson narrating the Julie story which we sat and listened to. It is fantastic to be able to follow her life from birth to her untimely death being run over by a curry delivery moped! Listening and finding the relevant bits in the tapestries :)The best thing was also that you were allowed to take photos:) The tapestries even included a cassette tape by T.Rex and depicted loads of places we have visited including Maldon with it’s famous barges and Colchester. We really do recommend a visit.
After a lovely hour we buy Mary a postcard before having a walk around Colchester Town centre which looked a little sad, perhaps the rainy day didn’t help. Then we headed back to the castle which is much too expensive to visit so continued down to the boating lake and the river where we spotted a
Goosander. Then being hungry we headed back up the A12 to Dedham stopping at the carpark by the mill for a cuppa and sandwich. For company we had two Egyptian Geese, a friendly Robin and a Grey wagtail (not that common in this area and is in fact mainly yellow!)
We had a walk around the mill pool which is very pretty but as the weather is so dull, getting some good pics was hard!

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