In over 50 works including previously unseen collaged and painted sketchbooks, rarely seen super-8 films and recent tapestries, this exhibition follows the development of ‘provincial punk’ in the early 1980s – the anti-elitist and playfully unfashionable artistic language that has come to characterise the practise of Grayson Perry.
Perry, one of today’s best known artistic social commentators notes of his youth: “I was a punk in the provincial sense. I was there in my bedroom with an old school shirt stencilling the word ‘hate’ onto it, looking out onto the lush turf of the north Essex countryside.” This notion of ‘Provincial Punk’ is an oxymoron, however it retains a need to create change and not to accept the status-quo but to experiment and become part of what Perry calls a “teasing rebellion.”
This rebellion is most evident in the conversations between art and craft that Perry sets up, through ceramics, drawings, films, tapestries and prints which discuss class, politics, religion and also, somewhat autobiographically, childhood. One such work featured in the exhibition is a display of Perry’s ceramic pots, ranging from colourful, heavily-glazed pots made in the late 1980s through to the present day, coated in drawings, handwriting and collage.
This heavy embellishment challenges the consideration of ceramics as craft, and positions them in the world of fine art, the same effect as used in The Walthamstow Tapestry (2009) – a large-scale tapestry also exhibited which charts a journey from birth to death via highstreet brands – and perhaps in Map of an Englishman (2004) which uses traditional etching to look into the more conceptual art realm of psychological states.
Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk, 23 May to 13 September, Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG. For more information visit www.turnercontemporary.org
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1. Grayson Perry, Sex, Drugs and Earthernware (1995). Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, London, copyright Grayson Perry.