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Grayson Perry

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Grayson Perry, Floating World 2011 /front and back


At first sight Perry’s pots are old classic vases decorated with figures. They look attractive, full of colors, pictures, inscriptions and decorations. They deal with autobiographical themes and society critics, designed with irony and full of disturbing details. He likes to play with the combination of innocent, handmade decorative pots and these shocking images.
Perry’s work refers to several ceramic traditions, including Greek and Japanese pottery. He has said, “I like the whole iconography  of pottery: no matter how brash a statement I make, on a pot it will always have certain humility …” Most of them have a surface composed of varied techniques:  glazing, incision, embossing, and the use of photographic transfers which requires several firings. It has been said that these methods are not used for decorative effect but to give meaning. Perry challenges the idea, saying that pottery is merely decorative or utilitarian and cannot express ideas.

But the fact is that his vases don’t seem to be utilitarian. They are not made for receiving flower, they are made to softly and critically scream at society. We could put flowers in it but it will only soften more the ideas.  For me those vases are not made to receive flowers but for saying something in an “acceptable” way with just the touch of irony needed.

The item I choose is not so much an autobiographical work unlike most of his work. I read it like a bitter opinion of the world as it is now.

At first, I was attracted by this vase because I liked the contradiction well set between this ancient Greec vase and this very contemporary life stories depicted on it.

I came to look at it again half an hour later and I was not sure anymore, something was disturbing me a lot about this vase. Not because of violence and sexual scene like in the vase next to it. In a less explicit way but still, the feelings were the same. Maybe it was even more disturbing because I could feel it but yet I didn’t know exactly why. There was no logical explanation as: “Oh I feel so bad because here I see an open body”
I also like very much his “explicit” work because I understand why I am repulsed and so I am less confused.

Grayson Perry used to develops images and text that represented his experience in terms of "explicit scenes of sexual perversion – sadomasochism, bondage, transvestism" mainly on pot, because the innocent pot is more adequate to express those scene then a video.


The colors attracted my intention, I disliked them immediately: they made me feel quite nauseous.
The background (earth?) look like it is disappearing because of his very soft yellow. The cars are really shiny, painted with shiny (mirror) metallic-blue enamel. The contrast is strong but the artist found the perfect solution: the blue of cars is a very clear one. The people are very small, floating around the vase as if it was a globe. They are many and everywhere. Like the background, people look like they are disappearing. Fading away. They are everywhere but without real presence. The cars on the other hand are shining and imposing. They are also all crashed.
On Japanese and Greek vases, the figure of men and nature are the most important. You can see the amazing story of Icarus, a men reading or a beautiful representation of nature. Those vases are here to glorify Men and their surroundings. Grayson Perry does the exact contrary resulting in a genial social critic.
On his vase, first you see those shining but crashed cars (materialistic possessions soon transformed into trash).Then, all those men floating around (They sure are a lot but they are not glorified as individuals) and, finally, this yellow-faddin’away background which could be interpreted as nature/surrounding. Something else is referring to nature but, the nature that men have chosen : The palm tree, and anyway, it is behind crashed by a car. What an irony!

The last reason why I like this item, this vase, is because of the panel of cultures Grayson Perry refers to.
First I recognized the Japanese vase shape. Then, I remembered that Greeks also used those kinds of storytelling vases but with a lightly different shape.

The drawings on the vase are recognizable as contemporary and from the Western part of the world mainly by the use of symbols , items and objects.
And I felt a South American sensitivity. It is not so clear on the item I choose but in some others of his works, the way of using colors and to compose seams inspired from the Mexican frescos and South America way of organizing item and the way of using colors.


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