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  • 'We trust maps. Maps are meant to be a trustworthy diagram of reality. All maps though, contain some human bids. They can emphasize desirable features and leave out the undesirable. I like maps of feelings, beliefs, and the irrational; they use our trust of maps to persuade us that there might be some truth in their beauty.' —Grayson Perry

    An etching from four plates on one sheet, Map of Days combines the traditional with the modern. As an ancestral practice, cartography spans the centuries as a deeply evocative process wherein the cartographer derives meaning from a given place. Borrowing from what is considered sacred to make claims about the profane, Perry was inspired by a map featured in John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) Christian allegory novel,  The Pilgrim’s Progress. Perry’s source for the buildings within the city was drawn from the book Lost London, 1870-1945 by Phillip Davies, while the architectural details and adverts on the buildings are faithful to Edwardian photographs. Two portraits in the map, featured in the upper left corner, refer directly to the time period this print was made – these are cyclist Bradley Wiggins, who won an Olympic gold medal on 1 Aug 2012, the day before the print was begun, and the art critic Robert Hughes, who died 5 days later.

     

    Plan of the Road from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, engraved for Williams’s Elegant Edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, 1833. Image: Bridgeman Images

    Using pathos as tool and motif, in Map of Days Perry meticulously traces the boundaries of his ego and reinterprets the self-portrait. Far from traditional portraiture, which prominently feature the subject’s physical likeness, the artist initially appears as a lone figure within a central circle next to an inscription which sardonically reads ‘a sense of self’. A network of passages radiate from this point, with some turning into distant roads pouring out of the enclosing borders. The artist has commented that ‘Maps that purport to show the geography not of real places but of imaginary lands, feelings, or social phenomena have always fascinated me, I think they are very symptomatic of our desire to make sense of the unpredictable and irrational in our lives.’

     

    Like an ordinary map, the streets are labelled. Ranging from more light-hearted titles such as ‘living in the moment’, to the more profound ‘the parts of me I cannot usually face up to’, the phrases point to a symbolic rather than material destination. Perry reveals the parts of himself which are often ineffable, elusive, and concealed within the complexities of the subconscious.

     

    The intricately rendered buildings also have a semiotic designation. A cathedral in ruins appearing on the far-right corner of the image with the word ‘assumptions’ jotted over it, is one such example of Map of Days’ metaphorical potential. Likewise, a rendering of Perry’s face is ironically labelled ‘The Inner You’. Using humour and playing off of clichés, Perry nevertheless waxes philosophical on matters of self. As a regular cross-dresser for over thirty years, Perry’s identity is inherently elusive and contradictory, constructing his female alter-ego Claire out of deliberately banal visual cues. Through such playful double-entendres and hidden meanings, Perry’s Map is poignantly self-reflective, looking inwards rather than outwards and guiding the viewer beneath the surface of objective reality. 

147

A Map of Days (blue)

2013
Etching in blue from four plates, printed on one sheet of wove paper, with full margins.
framed 119 x 161 (46 7/8 x 63 3/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 15/20 in pencil on the reverse, published by The Paragon Press, London, contained in the original yellow painted wooden frame specified by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£25,000 - 35,000 ♠ †

Sold for £75,600

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 June 2021