Dear Shaded Viewers,
Grayson Perry is a British treasure but not as well known internationally as he deserves to be. Of course you might have seen some of the documentaries on him and know of his gender fluidity something he brought to the front long before it became as acceptable as it is today. His artworks include ceramics, metal, prints and large-scale tapestries. The works make ironic comments on universal issues such as identity, gender, class, religion and sexuality. His classical-shaped vases are covered with elaborate decorations combining references to past and present as they deliver a sharp critique of the harsh realities of modern life. He works alone and does every aspect of the creative process without a team.
The exhibition’s subtitle, “Vanity, Identity, Sexuality”, recalls the motto of the French Republic and underscores the committed nature of the artist’s work. Perry plays with his own identity, which has become an integral part of his work and what we are the most familiar with but there is so much more to him. Autobiographical references to his childhood, to his family, his transvestite alter ego Claire-go hand in hand with a questioning of modernday traditions and rituals. He’s been a transvestite since the age of twelve. His life has provided him a privileged view of gender and identity issues. He is a husband and the father of a daughter, his challenge to the predominance of macho attitudes opens the way to debate
Some ot the names of his garments are: Artists Robe, this is the merging of old Japanese kimonos with a witch doctor and Mason. “I imagined wearing the official robes of my guild, so that if I was walking down the street people would say, “Oh look, there’s an artist!” I was thinking, too, about the Japanese Buddhist monk who had shawl-like garments called kesa. The first monks were poor wandering wise men who wore rags.” Then there is Claire’s Coming out Dress, yellow, this dress has the Liz Hurley factor. Reclining Artis and the Selfie with Political Causes which was made in 2018. He has given names to some of his vases like Precious Boys, Women of Ideas, I am a Man, Claire at the Tate Gallery, Transvestite Looking into a Mirror or Death of a Working Hero. Then there is his custom bike called Kenilworth AM1 other works of art include Alan Measles and Claire Visit the Rust Belt, Vote Alan Measles for God, Then there is the For Faith in Shopping which goes back to the sixteenth century of satirical medals that take the mickey out of figures of authority like religious leaders and politicians.
I particularly liked the antiquity Our Mother which is all of us on our journey through life, she is a universal refugee. Immigration was a central and very emotive issue during the EU referendum. Then there is Our Father who is a kind of pilgrim or saint, a man on the road of life. He is a monumental utility man, a figure of maleness, like the men of his father’s generation who worked in industry and had manual skills. There is the Map of Nowhere, Recipe for Humanity, Strangeley Familiar, Queen’s Bitter, Jane Austen in E17 and An Ultimate Consumer Durable which was shown in Venice, it looks like a storage jar that would have held spices or expensive oil. Now, international brands that you can buy everywhere are all that’s sold in Venice: Gucci handbags and Chanel perfume. “So it’s a double edged thing: I was critiquing the vacuousness of brands but also admitting that I’m a brand as well” said Perry.
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