Perry + Claire: The Inner Workings of U.K.'s Renowned, Ceramic Artist
English artist Grayson Perry by no means matches the stereotypical Ceramic artist. His flamboyant style and cross dressing have earned him notice in the British community and also the rest of the world. It is however, with his artwork, that his true personality begins to show. From an early age, Perry knew that he was not like other children. He preferred to dress in women’s clothing rather then the boys fashions at the time. These desires as a young child were concerning for his family and they provided negative feedback to the way he chose to dress. Perry, however, reacted to this by falling into a sort of fantasy life, which would later greatly influence his work and create his alter ego Claire. Following the instruction of his art teacher, he went on to study Fine Arts at Portsmouth Polytechnic graduating in 1982. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003, becoming the first ceramic artist to do so.
His choice of becoming a ceramic artist started with the idea that you could make something so common as a pot into a story that starts to have more of an impact to the audience. His artwork has become a type of Cosmopolitan Folk-Art with its wide variety of cultural themes and classical elements. He uses experiences and stories from the world around him as his inspiration and combines these elements with classical forms of pottery.
After the firing of the pieces, Perry then uses a technique of complicated glazing and photo transfer to make each piece tell a story of it’s own. Perry’s work touches on a number of subjects including violence, sex, drugs and pop culture with each displaying a certain sense of what it is to be human in this day in age. Perry’s pottery is a way of social protest and to a way for people to see the things that happen around them, that many try to just brush under the rug. He uses a classic form that many are comfortable with and when the viewer is drawn in, the real thought and reaction to the piece occurs.
While his work reflects many elements of society, a great deal of the work is sexually explicit in nature. He adds that in doing so, people are able to create a deeper reaction to the work and they take the time to actually try to understand the story that is being told. Much of his work deals with his decisions to dress in both men and women's clothing, something that has created him a sort of combined fame, for both his work and his style of dress.
In his piece, Barbaric Splendour, the classic Greek urn form is represented. When you first look at the piece, the background of the image looks as if it could be from the classical Greece. The scene in the back is muted in color and with the addition of shapes help to make the viewer comfortable with the initial look at the work. Adding to the further complex nature of the piece, Perry adds elements reflecting car wrecks, cell phones and supermodels. The piece tells the story of the dark and somewhat haunting world that we live in.
Golden Ghosts, combines stencils with gold outlines to bring the characters of the work to life. Perry commented that, “ The exceptionally sad image of the seated girl is that of a child affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster” Bringing this element into his work helps him not only to deal with the events in the world around him, but also comment on the unhappy past he has. The girl that is standing and outlined in gold is said to be is alter ego “ Claire” and comments on the unhappy childhood that he had being unable to be himself.
Grayson Perry’s work has become a way for him to comment on the unhappy past of his childhood and has helped him come to terms with the world around him. By reacting to unhappy memories and social injustices, Perry’s work had become influential to many young artists that are trying to deal with the world around them and has helped to bring unexplained social occurrences to the surface. The complexity to each piece tells us the stories that we all need to hear.