Grayson Perry, winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, uses the seductive qualities of ceramics and other art forms to make stealthy comments about societal injustices and hypocrisies, and to explore a variety of historical and contemporary themes. The beauty of his work is what draws us close. Covered with sgraffito drawings, handwritten and stencilled texts, photographic transfers and rich glazes, Perry's detailed pots are deeply alluring. Only when we are up close do we start to absorb narratives that might allude to dark subjects such as environmental disaster or child abuse, and even then the narrative flow can be hard to discern.
The disparity between form and content and the relationship between the pots and the images that decorate them is perhaps the most challenging incongruity of Perry's work. Yet, beyond the initial shock of an apparently benign or conservative medium carrying challenging ideas, what keeps us drawn to the work is its variety.
Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing us in with wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as fear and anger. Autobiographical references - to the artist's childhood, his family and his transvestite alter ego Claire - can be read in tandem with debates about décor and decorum and the status of the artist versus that of the artisan, debates which Perry turns on their head.
Born in Chelmsford, Essex in 1960, Grayson Perry lives and works in London. Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003 and has had major solo exhibitions at Mudam, Luxembourg (2008), 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2007), Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2006), Barbican Art Gallery, London (2002) and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2002). Grayson Perry has also curated two exhibitions - Unpopular Culture, de la Warr Pavilion (then touring) (2008) and The Charms of Lincolnshire, The Collection, Lincoln (2006).
The British Museum (6 October 2011 - 19th February 2012)
'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman'
Grayson Perry curates an installation of his new works alongside objects made by unknown men and women throughout history from the British Museum’s collection.
He’ll take you to an afterlife conjured from his imaginary world, exploring a range of themes connected with notions of craftsmanship and sacred journeys – from shamanism, magic and holy relics to motorbikes, identity and contemporary culture.
Vases covered in witty captions, elaborate tapestries and the centrepiece, a richly decorated cast iron coffin-ship, will be displayed alongside objects from the past two million years of culture and civilisation. From the first great invention, the hand axe, to a Hello Kitty pilgrim hand-towel, you will discover a reality that is old and new, poetic and factual, and funny as well as grim.
‘This is a memorial to all the anonymous craftsmen that over the centuries have fashioned the manmade wonders of the world…
The craftsman’s anonymity I find especially resonant in an age of the celebrity artist.’ (Grayson Perry)