Grayson Perry b. 1960

Provenance

Gallery Automne, Brussels
Private Collection
Private Collection, UK

Description

‘People’s expectations of a pot are framed by the prejudices they bring to ceramics, the memories of pottery seen on an auntie’s sideboard, at a car-boot sale or in a museum. My pots always carry with them the intellectual baggage of the history of ceramics, its archaeology, geography and value system. But up close, the content of my work can confound all that.’

Grayson Perry learned ceramics not at art school, where he studied sculpture, but later at evening classes in 1983, aged 23. His initial attraction to pottery stemmed from a feeling that it was irretrievably twee, middlebrow and parochial and he embraced the fact that it was, at this time, an area of discomfort for the contemporary art world. A trailblazer, in 2003, Perry won the Turner Prize for his pots and he is now best known for his ceramic works.

Perry claims that he is not an innovator of ceramics per se, because he creates pots based on classical forms, using traditional techniques. Each is laboriously coil or slab built, (as opposed to thrown), then shaved down, smoothed and fired a number of times. He often decorates his pots with sprig-moulding, making use of an 18-century technique, before the first firing. He then adds coloured slips and introduces drawings and words to the surface using sgraffito and sometimes stamps, before firing for a second time. The final stage might involve the addition of kitsch transfers, which he buys in bulk from wholesalers in Staffordshire and a final glaze, to give the pot its ‘shiny’ appearance, before a final firing at a low temperature. Although in many of the finished pots the drawing and text appears to sit on top of the transfers, in fact Perry would have made the marks prior to adding the transfer imagery.

The artist’s ceramics typically contain subverse and explicit content, which can range from sexual fantasy to political satire, quite at odds with the middle-class drawing room aesthetic of the medium itself. He has also created a smaller number of pots which he would describe as purely decorative, for example I Love Beauty, 2005, however although he appreciates the ‘prettiness’ of such works, he likens them to ‘potatoes without salt.’ Galerie Clara Scrimini, 1994 contains plenty of ‘salt’ and thus belongs to the former category of Perry’s more provocative ceramics.

At first glance, the present work appears colourful and highly decorative however, on closer inspection the surface reveals itself to be busy with overlapping incongruous imagery and text. In contrast to Bernard Leach’s approach of ‘less is more,’ Perry works with a philosophy of ‘When in doubt, bung it on,’ as we see here in Galerie Clara Scrimini, 1994. Featuring a dark blue body patterned with teal coloured pseudo tribal-esque skeletons, the pot’s surface is emblazoned with slang words for ‘Nonsense,’ including ‘Tripe,’ ‘Gammon,’ ‘Twaddle,’ ‘Claptrap,’ ‘Absurdity,’ ‘Bosh,’ ‘Drivel,’ ‘Bullshit,’ ‘Silly talk,’ ‘Bilge’ and ‘Tommyrot,’ which combine to give the work an abrasive and negative tone. Here, consciously clichéd stock transfers of flowers and twee cartoons, which with their rough, ‘torn’ edges have the appearance of collaged elements, are ‘graffitied’ with peculiar alien looking figures. For an artist who once claimed to have ‘’an acute allergy to clichés,’’ his deliberate attempt to deconstruct them here is not surprising. Small, protruding sprig-moulded forms stud the surface of the body of the pot, adding yet another layer to the surface. Due to their silver colour, these give the impression of metal bolts, echoing the spikiness of surrounding words.

In 1994, the year this pot was executed, Perry had a solo show at the Clara Scremini Gallery in Paris. This work doesn’t actually appear to have been included in the show, but the title clearly references what was going on in Perry’s career at the time. Perry has used the names of galleries and dealers in the titles of his ceramics before, see Portrait of Anthony D’Offay, 1998, which is comprised of two phallic shaped ceramics, and As Sold by the Anthony D’Offay Gallery, 1996 - Perry later explaining that the title had nothing to do with the content, but was given simply to wind up the well-known art dealer.

Galerie Clara Scrimini, 1994 has a strong likeness, in both content and appearance, to Piss Flaps, 1994 and indeed the word ‘flap’ features on its surface, referencing the sister pot. Both works exhibit an impressive range of techniques, reflecting the 11 years Perry had been making ceramics at this point.


For more information about the artist and his ceramics, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI2JG67b-fs

1 The artist cited in Jacky Klein, Grayson Perry, Updated and Expanded Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2013, p56
2 The artist cited in ‘Sex Pots,’ The World of Interiors, July, 1993, p101
3 The artist in Bloomberg’s ‘Brilliant Ideas: Artist Grayson Perry,’ as seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI2JG67b-fs