Grayson Perry is a complete legend, a national treasure, a symbol of what British creativity is all about.
He may have first got our attention for his ceramic vases which helped him to win the Turner Prize in 2003, but he is also celebrated for his tapestries; his documentaries on class, culture and identity; his books; his lectures and of course, for cross-dressing as his alter-ego Claire.
Starting with his ceramics, he puts the word potty into pottery in the best possible sense, his vases are eccentric, beautiful and also political, which is not what classical pottery is all about, but it is what great art is all about.
Art that makes you proud to be British, because it captures the essence of our nation, not just in the fact it is about our class and taste, but also because it is created by an artist who is not afraid to be himself, not afraid to be slightly ridiculous and not afraid to lampoon our society.
Talking of society, the documentary series “All In The Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry” explores how each class defines itself, by how they decorate their homes, by how they choose what car to drive and how they present themselves. Grayson Perry says: “Taste has always fascinated me. I look at the world and I see people: how they dress; how they have their clothes; how they do their houses; and I wonder what is behind their choices.” Perry is inspired by his investigations in each episode to create a wonderful tapestry that depicts each class.
For instance, in his tapestry for the upper class, you see a country estate, a dying stag with the head of an aristocratic man dressed in tweed, and a couple, who are clearly the lords of the manor, the man with a shooting gun under his arm.
Perry’s documentaries shine a light on our culture like no other. They can make you feel proud and ashamed of your class, of your identity and of your taste all at the same time.
In his films, Perry explores societal pressures on us to conform, for example to male stereotypes and ideas of masculinity in the three-part documentary series All Man. Perry says: “Men have tended to rule the world, and in many ways still do, but I think we are a stranger, more interesting bunch than we let on.” At the end of each episode artworks are revealed that epitomise Perry’s findings about masculinity today, from huge phallic ceramics to tapestries showing the best and worst of what men do, and how they feel. At the end I was quite relieved that I am not a man… it’s not as easy as it looks, apparently.
Here are links to Grayson Perry films:
See Perry’s art in 2020
The best way to appreciate Perry’s work is to see it in the flesh. Perry has work displayed in collections of the British Council and Arts Council,]Crafts Council, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Until 1 March you can see one of his class tapestries at the Manchester Whitworth https://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/currentexhibitions/tapestries/.
There is also an exhibition to catch in Bath, Somerset: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years at The Holburne Museum, 24 January to 25 May 2020 https://www.artfund.org/whats-on/exhibitions/2020/01/24/grayson-perry-the-pre-therapy-years-exhibition.