Image: Grayson Perry, Village of Penians, 2001, Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London © Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford, England in 1960. He studied at Braintree College of Further Education and later at Portsmouth Polytechnic. In 2003, he won the Turner Prize and in 2013 was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Though working within the context of contemporary art, Perry is a practitioner of artisanal crafts, specifically pottery. He rejects Conceptual art as the sole claimant of ‘ideas’ and champions the decorative and intimate qualities of handmade objects with stories to tell. His ceramic pots are highly illustrated with narrative scenes, often darkly humorous, and in their traditional look, they challenge what the artist feels to be the uninspiring quality of ‘good taste’.
In the ceramic pot, Village of the Penians (2001) Perry explores symbolism and religion within a fantasy world where the phallus is an icon of worship for the community. The large, earthenware pot is decorated with hand drawn scenes of village life in which male genitalia appears wherever we might expect to see a crucifix. Overlaying the drawings are images torn from vintage children’s books, creating a jumble of historic references and a confusion of past and present.
Perry has curated major exhibitions, such as ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’ at the British Museum, London (2011), where he interspersed ancient artefacts with his own works in order to explore folk history and craft tradition. In 2013 he unveiled a major work titled The Vanity of Small Differences, a series of six large-scale tapestries which follow the ‘Rake’s Progress’ narrative through scenes from contemporary British life.