From the big design collection of the Stedelijk museum, I could point out a few pieces which I like a lot. Still, by having the limitation of choosing just one, I had no trouble remembering this one big pot I’d seen on my way. Not that I especially like ceramics, (nor shiny pots I would say) but for some reason this specific one got all of my attention in a completely positive way.
Strangely familiar was the name. From Grayson Perry. I thought: never heard of it, but in fact it looks strangely familiar to me. These drawings on it were telling a lot, making sense.
After this first innocent impression, the investigation process started. First of all, as I cannot deny, I googled it – images. An amazing work collection appeared. I was happy already with my selection. I found out very quickly that apart from ceramics Grayson Perry also makes tapestries. Also it was easy to understand he likes dressing up as a woman.
Research went on for long, and still I know nothing of him. He has his name on a few book covers, is active on discussions about art, culture, education… Made a 3-episodes documentary for channel 4 in which he introduces 6 tapestries and discusses the idea of taste held by the different social classes in the United Kingdom. It was very successful, and won the turner prize in 2013. In 2002, Stedelijk made a solo exhibition with Perry´s work.
I went through one of his books: Grayson Perry, portrait of the artist as a young girl, a biography written by Wendy Jones. I found a lot of interest on his childhood, full of fantasy. He tells about his parents and sister, how they got married and divorced thanks to the affair of his mother with the milkman. His father left the family, which he takes as the event with biggest impact on him and his life; his stepfather violence or his teddy bear, which he sees a bit as a God.
Later on he studied in London, had lot’s of fun and lived in squats.
Grayson Perry has an alter ego, Claire. She is the kind of woman who eats ready-made meals and can barely sew a button. He likes to dress up like a girl since seven. Nothing ever made him stop. But Perry says that he is not pretending to be a woman; he is just a man in a dress. He is married and with a daughter born in 1992.
One of the reasons that made me identify this much with his work is that he likes to make things that he finds beautiful. Not with a big idea behind it, just in a spontaneous way. I think as well that sometimes is nice just to enjoy art, with no interpretation or understanding.
Grayson Perry thinks it is sad that in contemporary art the craft work is getting a bit lost. Like as if the concept is all. On this I agree with him, if it is all about concept, than why is it art and not philosophy? This way most philosophers are doing great works of art every time they use an object to explain their idea. I like to look at an art piece, and together with the concept to see something personal of the artist, that he actually did himself. Perry finds it very interesting about Duchamp and his urinal and all, but that is quite old now. It was new to point at a random object and to say it is art, but not anymore. Also that the question is not about what art is, because we’ve seen already everything can be art. This way the question becomes ‘’what is the good art?’’. For him a good concept is not enough. He compares it with a film that has this great subject but not good visuals and sounds. It might make it a good film, but not a good work of art.
In the end I think the reason why he is so famous is that he provokes other artists and people in general, somehow in a conservative way; but very cleverly, it is hard to criticize or contradict. Also he always speaks his personal opinion, but at the same time he justifies it very well, as if he is praying to people for some new art religion of esthetics and craft work, easy and accessible. He is going back to the old way of looking at art, the beauty of shapes and colours, and the feeling it gives to people. Instead of giving confusion which is after explained with the concept. I see it as the difference of drawing and illustrating. Before works of art were like a drawing, which tells the story by itself. Now it became like illustration, of a concept which should most of the times be told together so that you get the complete picture. Then again it is all a matter of what each identifies with or to find a good balance.
He will give lectures about the state of art on the 21st century on Reith Lectures from BBC radio 4, October or November 2013. I give everyone the advise of taking a look at his work and the things he wrote and says. Enjoy!
I am telling Grayson Perry’s opinion based on this interviews: