Award-winning British artist Grayson Perry is an astute commentator on contemporary society and culture. His show at Kiasma consists of classical ceramic pots and large tapestries on unexpected subjects: Brexit, aesthetic tastes and masculine ideals, as well as the artist’s personal life.
Grayson Perry explores subjects that are universally human: identity, gender, social status, sexuality and religion. In Britain he is also a highly regarded public speaker and maker of award-winning television documentaries.
Art or Craft?
The exhibition at Kiasma comprises nearly fifty works. In addition to ceramics and tapestries, it also includes pieces made of cast iron and bronze.
Perry is fascinated by the tension between craft and fine art. Ceramics, for example, are still often considered a harmless decorative medium, but for Perry it is a vehicle for contemporary art. His pots seem classical, but on closer inspection they often surprise, with their surfaces covered with motifs ranging from politics to domestic drama, from consumer culture to sadomasochistic sex.
Perry says that he does not choose his motifs merely to shock. Instead, he says, “sex, war and gender are subjects that are part of me and fascinate me, and I feel I have something to say about them.”
From Class Conflict to Brexit
British society, with its pleasures and injustices, is the subject of many of Perry’s works. In the series of large tapestries, on show at Kiasma, Perry comments on class distinctions and aesthetic taste in British society. The works are full of detail: furniture, clothes, food, books and cars.
One of the works on display explores the 2016 Brexit referendum. To create the piece, Perry travelled to meet people who lived in areas where the leavers and the remainders had the largest bases. Matching Pair consists of two pots, one for each side of the battle.
Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford, UK, in 1960. He began his artistic career in the 1980s. He is a versatile artist and the recipient of many awards and accolades, including Britain’s foremost art award, the Turner Prize (2003). He was made member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2012.
Perry lives and works in London. In addition to Britain, he has held solo exhibitions in Europe and Australia.
Perry talks openly and unabashedly about his own life, and his work contains a strong autobiographical element as well. During his childhood he retreated into a private world of fantasy and in his teens discovered his predilection for cross-dressing. His female alter ego Claire and his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles appear in many of his works. The works on show at Kiasma include Claire’s outfit for her coming-out ceremony and Alan Measles sitting on Perry’s motorcycle.
The Folk Wisdom exhibition showcases Perry’s work from the last two decades. Folk wisdom consists of common-sense beliefs passed down orally through generations of ordinary people. “They are not necessarily rational or scientifically proven, but in them, more often than not, is a grain of truth.” Perry’s art is also full of folk wisdom and shared beliefs.
The exhibition is produced collaboratively by Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and La Monnaie de Paris.