The fourteen portraits in this exhibition, displayed among the Gallery’s Collection, are not primarily concerned with what the subjects look like. They are images about the nature of identity, snapshots taken from the narratives of people’s lives. Our sense of ourselves feels constant but our identity is an ongoing performance that is changed and adapted by our experiences and circumstances. We feel like we are the same person we were years before, but we are not.
As my subjects I have chosen individuals, families or groups that somehow represent some important facets of the nature of our identity. I have attempted to portray the character of the identity journey they are facing. They have changed religion or gender, they have lost some of their physical or mental faculties, they have lost status, they belong to a group that is hoping it will be seen differently by society. All of them, I thought, show us something of the negotiations we are all involved in, unconsciously or otherwise, around who we feel we are and how we are seen.
For most of us, most of the time our identity works for us so we do not question it. But when it does not feel right, or is under threat, then we are suddenly made very aware of how central and vital our identity is.
Grayson Perry, 2014