Grayson Perry



2008 Grayson Perry (1960 − )

‘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 (, 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

  • Accession Number P8194
  • Dimensions 153 X 113 CM

Glossary (4)

  • Contemporary

    Existing or coming into being at the same period; of today or of the present. The term that designates art being made today.

  • Drawing

    The depiction of shapes and forms on a flat surface chiefly by means of lines although colour and shading may also be included. Materials most commonly used are pencil, ink, crayon, charcoal, chalk and pastel, although other materials, including paint, can be used in combination.

  • Etching

    An intaglio process whereby a metal plate (normally copper, zinc or steel) is covered with an acid-resistant layer of rosin mixed with wax. With a sharp point, the artist draws through this ground to reveal the plate beneath. The plate is then placed in an acid bath (a water and acid solution) and the acid bites into the metal plate where the drawn lines have exposed it. The waxy ground is cleaned off and the plate is covered in ink and then wiped clean, so that ink is retained only in the etched lines. The plate can then be printed through an etching press. The strength of the etched lines depends on the length of time the plate is left in the acid bath.

  • Landscape

    Landscape is one of the principle genres of Western art. In early paintings the landscape was a backdrop for the composition, but in the late 17th Century the appreciation of nature for its own sake began with the French and Dutch painters (from whom the term derived). Their treatment of the landscape differed: the French tried to evoke the classical landscape of ancient Greece and Rome in a highly stylised and artificial manner; the Dutch tried to paint the surrounding fields, woods and plains in a more realistic way. As a genre, landscape grew increasing popular, and by the 19th Century had moved away from a classical rendition to a more realistic view of the natural world. Two of the greatest British landscape artists of that time were John Constable and JMW Turner, whose works can be seen in the Tate collection ( There can be no doubt that the evolution of landscape painting played a decisive role in the development of Modernism, culminating in the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists . Since then its demise has often been predicted and with the rise of abstraction, landscape painting was thought to have degenerated into an amateur pursuit. However, landscape persisted in some form into high abstraction, and has been a recurrent a theme in most of the significant tendencies of the 20th Century. Now manifest in many media, landscape no longer addresses solely the depiction of topography, but encompasses issues of social, environmental and political concern.

Past exhibitions


  • 2011
    • Portugal, Coimbra, Univesidade de Coimbra, Casa de Caldeiras
    • Portugal, Edp Foundation
    • Portugal, Cascais, Casa Das Historias


  • 2010
    • China, Shanghai, Minsheng Art Gallery
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