Pic © Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/Interim Art, London/Tate, London 2008
Exhibition: A Picture Of You?, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, until May 2 2009.
British art often seems obsessed with self-imagery to the point of narcissism. It’s an easy sell, providing the immediate familiarity of compulsive audience participation, and here loans from the Tate and Arts Council collections take a look at the relentless collective search for identity through styles, pictures and flights of fancy.
Grayson Perry, Aspects of Myself, 2001. Pic © Grayson Perry/Tate, London
Gillian Wearing’s snapshots of earnest self-empowerment, Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say, were actually taken before the current free flow of egotism, showing everything from dole queue moans to spiritual hypotheses in a series from the early 1990s.
Elsewhere, transvestite potter Grayson Perry, a Turner Prize winner six years ago, explores some of his fantasies, and Mana Hatoum reads letters from her mother in Beirut as their Arabic text scrolls across the screen in front of images of her in the shower.
Hew Locke, Medusa, 2007. Pic © Hew Locke, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London
It’s the first in a series of similar exhibitions planned at Museums Sheffield during the next four years in collaboration with Tate Britain, Tyne & Wear Museums and Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, looking at British identity in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics under the umbrella of the Great British Art Debate.