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Grayson Perry Signed Prints & Originals

Biography for Grayson Perry

Born 1960

Grayson Perry (born 1960) is an English artist, famous for his art and famous for his cross-dressing.

Grayson Perry was awarded the Turner prize in 2003 for his brilliant but often shocking ceramic works, the first ‘potter’ to receive the accolade. Grayson Perry’s classically formed vases are decorated in bright colours, depicting disturbing and often uncomfortable subjects at odds with their attractive appearance. There is a strong autobiographical element in Grayson Perry’s work, in which images of Grayson Perry as “Claire”, his female alter-ego, often appear. Grayson Perry collected his Turner prize award dressed as his alter ego Claire.

Raised in Chelmsford by his mother after his father left when he was seven, Grayson Perry began to take a keen interest in drawing and building model aeroplanes, both of which were to become themes in his work. To escape from a difficult family situation and his stepfather’s violence, he would often retreat to his bedroom or his father’s shed where he became absorbed in a fantasy life, often involving his teddy bear called Alan Measles that had become a “surrogate father figure. Measles goes on to take a starring role in Grayson Perry’s pottery and tapestry art works.

Grayson Perry was educated at King Edward VI Grammar school, where he took interest in conventional boys’ activities, such as model airplanes, motorcycles and girls.[1] Grayson Perry was in the school’s Combined Cadet Corps and wanted to train as an army officer. Grayson Perry was also involved in the Chelmsford punk scene in the late 1970s.

However, from an early age Grayson Perry liked to dress in women’s clothes and in his teens realized that he was a transvestite. Deciding against joining the army and on the advice of his art teacher he enrolled at art school, graduating from Portsmouth Polytechnic with a BA honours in fine art.

In the months following his graduation Grayson Perry joined the “Neo-Naturists”, a group started by Christine Binnie to revive the “true sixties spirit – which involves living one’s life more or less naked and occasionally manifesting it into a performance for which the main theme is body paint”. They put on events at galleries and other venues.

No longer in contact with his parents Grayson Perry now lived a hand-to-mouth existence in squats, at one point sharing a house with milliner Stephen Jones and pop musician Boy George; the three of them competing to see who could wear the most outrageous outfits to Blitz, a New Romantic nightclub based in Covent Garden, London.[4]

Grayson Perry started taking evening classes in pottery in September 1983. However, he didn’t and still doesn’t ‘throw’ the clay on the wheel, preferring instead to use ‘coiling’ an old traditional method where by the clay is moulded into a snake and built up into the required shape. His first piece of pottery success was a plate depicting a crude crucifixion and had the words Kinky sex marked across it.

Grayson Perry’s first exhibition of ceramics was in London in December 1983. He began to develop images and text that represented his experience in terms of “explicit scenes of sexual perversion – sadomasochism, bondage, transvestism. Grayson Perry quotes “I have used imagery that some people find disturbing. I use such materials not to deliberately shock but because sex, war and gender are subjects that are part of me and fascinate me, and I feel I have something to say about them.”

Grayson Perry was never motivated by a desire to work in clay as such; rather he chose pottery because studio ceramics was in “thrall to a formal idea”. Grayson Perry found in pottery an effective alternative because of “the ways artifice could be deployed to make the innocent or honest pot have a purpose and mean something”.

Grayson Perry’s pottery refers to several ceramic traditions, including Greek pottery and folk art. Grayson Perry has said, “I like the whole iconography of pottery. It hasn’t got any big pretensions to being great public works of art, and no matter how brash a statement I make, on a pot it will always have certain humility … for me the shape has to be classical invisible: then you’ve got a base that people can understand”. Most have a complex surface employing many techniques, including “glazing, incision, embossing, and the use of photographic transfers”, which requires several firings. To some he adds sprigs, little relief sculptures stuck to the surface. The high degree of skill required by his ceramics and their complexity distances them from craft pottery. It has been said that these methods are not used for decorative effect but to give meaning. Grayson Perry challenges the idea, implicit in the craft tradition, that pottery is merely decorative or utilitarian and cannot express ideas.

Bright and attractive from a distance, writes Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian, Grayson Perry’s pots are rather more disturbing when viewed more closely. There is one called Kinky Sex, which depicts people doing exactly what you wouldn’t expect against a background of Brookside-style housing estates. There is another depicting eponymous Moonlit Wankers, one of whom is a woman with a large erect penis. “I’ve been dusted with the perversion brush, it’s true,” Grayson Perry says. “In life as in art,” he adds. Grayson Perry goes on to say his use of clay is a “guerrilla tactic”, using the approachable medium of pottery to provoke thought.

Grayson Perry’s ceramic vessels have become eminently collectable, signature arte facts.

As well as ceramics, Grayson Perry is well renowned for his work in printmaking, drawing and embroidery.

2004 saw the publication of the magnificent etching ‘Map of an English Man’. As Grayson Perry’s first foray into this medium it is truly an extraordinary accomplishment. This etching, small in Edition, is huge in detail, measuring over a meter high and two metres long; it is the surreal creation of an intricate map of Grayson Perry’s mind. This etching, printed on 400gsm Rives Velin arches blanc paper, illustrates an imaginary island, almost brain-shaped, surrounded by seas – Schizophrenia, Delirium, Anorexia Nervosa. The countryside is dotted with features – Anger, Sex, Dementia, Cheerleader – which represent Grayson’s ‘prejudices, fears, desires and vanities’. Signed on the reverse of the etching Grayson Perry.

As Grayson Perry said “I did a print called Map of an Englishman and it was very successful and I enjoyed it”.

This subtle shifting in the direction of adopting tapestry and printmaking in a more sustained manner, saw Grayson Perry taking a slightly softer and subtler approach to imagery, rejuvenating his interest in English craft while simultaneously, though not all paradoxically, broadening his cultural horizons. In 2005 Grayson Perry’s ‘Print for a Politician’ series was published. A series of six long landscape shaped etchings, printed on Rives Velin they are; etching print ‘Print for a Politician’ Edition size of 59, signed on the reverse Grayson Perry. Etching print ‘Print for a Politician’ (biro blue) Edition size of 7, signed on the front Grayson Perry. Etching print ‘Print for a Politician’ (deep red) Edition size of 7, signed on the front Grayson Perry. ‘Print for a Politician’ (violet) Edition size of 7, signed on the front Grayson Perry. ‘Print for a Politician’ (brown/cream) edition size of 7, signed on the front Grayson Perry. And ‘Print for a Politician’ (orange) edition of 7, signed on the front Grayson Perry. These outstanding examples of print making were part of a prelude to The Walthamstow tapestry’. Grayson Perry says “It was influenced by many things. Chinese scroll paintings were one, those very long paintings. And Henry Darger, one of my favourite artists, always worked in longer sizes and often his pictures are battle scenes. When I was a kid I would play on the windowsill and move little tanks and soldiers around on it. I had a bit of carpet cut and I would parade them on it and that set the train of thought of for me. As a child, I had a very structured fantasy world and the baddies were the Germans but in reality this wasn’t the case. I think, for me, often in our play we metaphorically play out our internal world. Darger did that and I did that when I was a child and still do that now.

“People have sub-personalities and they play them out, a mature person is someone who can negotiate and allow sub-personalities to have their say even when we may find some of the voices unattractive. There’s parts of all of ourselves we don’t like. ‘Print for a Politician’ tries to capture that.”

“I was thinking of all the bickering that’s been going on in the world and what fun it would be to label everybody socially. I made a long list of all the different groups I could think of off the top of my head and scattered them randomly on the surface. There are minimalists, chauvinist pigs, elitists, parents, fat people, townies, locals, the old, Sunnis, Shias, fantasists, working class, thick people, satanists. Everything. It shows that we can live with this difference.

“I started at the top lefthand corner and worked my way to the bottom righthand corner a month later. It took a long time to draw it. I just made it up as I went along really. The way I have depicted every group is kind of random. I wanted people to look at it and feel that they associated themselves with at least some of the people and think ‘in the end, we are all just as bad as each other’.

“All the architecture is mixed up and there are lots of different periods there. There are three aeroplanes there and weapons from different ages. There are generic troops. There’s no historical accuracy. I wanted it to be a game and was really enjoying the figures. It was just playing. Play is very important for an artist – play and art are the same words in some African languages.

At 7ft long by 2ft high, ‘Print for a Politician'(violet), ‘Print for a Politician'(biro blue), ‘Print for a Politician'(deep red) is a very small elite edition of seven and are signed on the reverse. And the monochrome ‘Print for a Politician’ is still a relatively small edition of 50. To Grayson Perry’s delight one of the etching prints ‘Print for a Politician’ was bought by the Contemporary Collection at the House of Commons. Grayson Perry says in an interview for the Guardian “I did a print called ‘Map of an Englishman’ and it was very successful and I enjoyed it, so I decided to do ‘Print for a Politician’. When I first thought of it, I thought it would be funny if it ended up in the Houses of Parliament and now it has. Last week, I went along to a reception at Portcullis House and it was on some easels and I thought it stood out pretty well.”

The second set of etching prints that act as a prelude to The Walthamstow Tapestry were published in 2008. They are the signed etching print series ‘Map of Nowhere’. The series is made up of four etchings. A striking monochrome etching print ‘Map of Nowhere’ Edition size of 68 and signed on the reverse Grayson Perry. And a trio of coloured etchings made from 5 plates on one sheet. They are; ‘Map of Nowhere’ (red) Edition size of 15 and signed on the reverse Grayson Perry. ‘Map of Nowhere’ (blue) Edition size of 15 and signed on the reverse Grayson Perry. ‘Map of Nowhere’ (purple) Edition size of 15 and signed on the reverse Grayson Perry. When describing ‘Map of Nowhere’ (blue) Sam Rose from Studio International says “The combination of style and blue and white colour of the coloured etching gives a result strikingly close to blue glazed Dutch or English tiling.” ‘Map of Nowhere’ is based on The Ebstorf Map, a German ‘mappa mundi’ destroyed during WWII.
Grayson Perry’s prints are as good as his pots. ‘Map of Nowhere’ brings together key concepts of the world today and arranges them around what is simultaneously the artists’s body and a map of the globe. Inspired by medieval maps and mystical diagrams, there are churches for Microsoft, Tesco and Starbucks. A shanty town on stilts is labelled “Free Market Economy”.

Turning his hand to textiles, Grayson Perry unveiled the wondrously ‘Wow’ Walthamstow Tapestry in 2009. A vast Jacquard woven tapestry, decorated with hundreds of brand names, measuring fifteen meters by three meters, The Walthamstow tapestry was inspired by Grayson Perry’s enthusiasm for the elaborate imagery of early 20th-century Sumatran batik fabrics.

The Walthamstow Tapestry, can be read from left to right. It starts with a graphically bloody scene of childbirth and then continues with depictions of the seven ages of man, through childhood, adulthood and eventually to death.

But the devil is in the detail. Quotes Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian. Around these large human figures teem hundreds of smaller images and words. The words are brand names, detached from their products but leaving behind them, Grayson Perry says, “the aroma of the particular values they convey.”

Grayson Perry goes on to say “When you divorce the names from their products and logos you are left with a kind of emotional residue,”
The small images clustering among the brand names are of other matters relating to modern life. Mothers push prams, children talk on their mobile phones, soldiers aim rifles, a suicide bomber prepares to detonate himself. motifs turn out to be litter, the detritus of modern urban existence – discarded detergent bottles, carrier bags caught in the branches of trees, beer cans and McDonald’s wrappers. Grayson Perry says: “In the end I will always err on the side of making something pretty and not worry about something’s being a stage set for an idea.”

The Walthamstow Tapestry, an edition of 12, conveys a comment on the particular significance of brands in modern life, and the almost religious weight they carry. “It’s almost like a religious fresco celebrating obscure gods and beliefs,” Grayson Perry says.

Grayson Perry lives in London and Sussex with his wife, the author and psychotherapist, Philippa Perry and their daughter Flo, born in 1992. Grayson Perry’s alter ego Claire is very much part of their lives. Grayson Perry says in an interview when asked why he dresses as a woman “Because for me that’s the crack cocaine of femininity … I just love dressing up in everything a man is supposed not to be, in all that vulnerability, sweetness, preciousness and impracticality.” Which Grayson Perry beautifully and sensitively portrays in his exquisite pen and ink drawing ‘Self Portrait’.

* Approximate price based on current exchange rates.

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