A gallery in a small isolated community tucked away in the cliffs of North Devon, England has been host to some bizarre events. A huge light box of a portrait of the self-declared tranvestite potter and winner of the Turner Prize Grayson Perry has been shining a light from the gallery window during lockdown.
Gallery owner and expert in mid 20th century fine art pottery Tim Williams has held Grayson Perry in the highest esteem and saw the opportunity to show the lightbox by artist Richard Ansett as tribute to his contemporary hero not realising the remarkable turn of events that would transpire.
“The pandemic has taken its toll on our collective mental health and as some of the lockdown restrictions lifted we noticed what we could only presume were ‘offerings’ left on the doorstep as tribute to our secular icon.” said Tim.
“I turned up one morning to find a can of SPAM on the doorstep and then on another occasion a packet of McVities Rich Tea biscuits and I started to think something might be happening.”
Since then the gallery has cautiously opened its doors and encouraged the pilgrimage to the alter. The local community have also responded bringing handmade objects, natural as well as supermarket bought offerings.
Retired couple Rene and Cathy came to the gallery with wild strawberries, Bisto Gravy Granules and Jacobs Cream Crackers.
“Lockdown has been very hard on us and many of our friends and neighbours” says Cathy “we hope that our offering to the alter will lift the curse of Covid-19 on our little village.”
Self-identifying non-binary teen and by coincidence Perry’s namesake Grayson admits he bought the first offering to the gallery steps.
“Spam’s a big thing in Lynton” says Grayson “I wanted to leave a tribute and I just took some Spam from my mum’s house and left it outside the gallery. It doesn’t feel easy sometimes being young and different in a small village especially in lockdown and this amazing picture of a man in a wig holding a baby made me feel less alone and like everything was going to be alright.”
The portrait consigned to Tim Williams Fine Art Gallery in Lynton by artist/photographer Richard Ansett is an “inglorious pink extravaganza” of art historical and religious references. The national treasure Grayson Perry is captured in the traditional conceit of mother and child surrounded by the “shameless campery” of organza and fake flowers bathed in a halo of light. Not the traditional fair one might think for an area known for its predominantly conservative views.
Ansett’s appropriation of Perry into what he calls a "faux religious queer icon" came to Lynton from a world tour following its success at the Sony World Photography Awards, a residency at Fitzrovia Chapel, London where it was displayed alone on the alter and the Format and Arles Photo Festival. Whilst at Fitzrovia Chapel the artwork transformed from bombastic challenge to the status quo to a genuine icon in its own right and statement of the right to the sacred for all.
Tim Williams has big plans for Lynton, an art festival is high on his list to compete with Damien Hirst’s dominance of nearby Ilfracombe. “This is one of the most beautiful parts of England” says Tim “steeped in British art history. We feel the new normal could be something very special for everyone. We invite everyone to come, bring offerings to the alter in solidarity with all people that feel different and share in the beauty of nature and art.”
BIRTH: A Portrait of Grayson Perry by Richard Ansett will be on permanent display throughout 2021 at Tim Williams Fine Art, 1 Castle Hill, Lynton EX35 6JA.