Victoria Miro Gallery, London
London, Birch and Conran, Grayson Perry: Ceramics, 16 September - 9 October 1987, cat no.61, illus b/w
Bath, The Holborne Museum, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, 24 January-25 May 2020, illus colour p111, touring to:
York, York City Art Gallery, 19 June - 20 September
Norwich, Sainsbury Centre, 18 October - 31 January
In his early shows at Birch and Conran, Grayson Perry exhibited an eclectic mix of ceramic objects which borrowed the vernacular forms and decorative techniques of English country potteries, but which, on closer inspection, revealed personal and deliberately provocative images.
The execution of Goblet, its roughly applied sprig moulds and patchy lustre glazes, is deliberately crude; Rudi Fuchs noting that, ‘Perry’s pots often look as though they have been smashed to pieces and stuck together again: the pot as collage, as support on which almost anything can be mounted’ 1 The title evokes both real and imaginary versions of medieval history - from school projects on the Kings and Queens of England, to the poetry of Keats and novels of Tolkien - a blurry space in which fact and fiction co-exist. On the body, we find reliefs of skulls, Russian and German military insignia, a cockerel, British crown and the winged head of Charles I, the latter a subversion of the RAF and Harley Davidson logos.
Perry’s subject is the English psyche - his own experience often the starting point through which to interrogate wider themes. Perry’s imagery suggests a particular masculine stereotype – the kind of man who prefers the imaginary realm to the irrationality of other people, finding escape in war reenactment and science fiction. In Perry’s autobiography, he describes his own feelings of being an outsider, describing the tension in his childhood home and the escape offered by his collection of illustrated encyclopaedias. Here Perry presents the big subject of DEATH, through the eyes of his younger self. It points to both the comfort and danger of stories, and our collective need to retreat into a world of fantasy.
1 Rudi Fuchs, Grayson Perry: Guerilla Tactics, Stedelijk Museum, 2002, p67