artist / participant
Grayson Perry. Folk Wisdom
13.04.2018 - 02.09.2018
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma has invited British artist Grayson Perry, one of the most astute commentators on contemporary society and culture, to present a major exhibition of almost fifty works spanning the last two decades on Kiasma’s fifth floor.
Grayson Perry explores subjects that are universally human: identity, gender, social status, sexuality and religion. He is a great chronicler of contemporary life, yet he favours traditional materials and techniques such as ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry. In Britain he is also a highly regarded public speaker, author and maker of award-winning television documentaries.
The artist speaks openly and unabashedly about his own identity and there is a strong autobiographical element in his work. During childhood, he retreated into a private world of fantasy, and in his teens Perry discovered his predilection for cross-dressing. His female alter-ego Claire and his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles appear in many of his works. Perry is celebrated for his ability to combine highly crafted objects with scenes of contemporary life. His subject matter is drawn from his own childhood and life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues from class, sex and religion, masculinity and the current cultural and political landscape.
Autobiographical references can be read in tandem with questions about décor and decorum, class and taste, and the status of the artist versus that of the artisan. Perry uses ceramics and other art forms to make stealthy comments about society, its pleasures as well as it injustices and flaws, and to explore a variety of historical and contemporary themes. Talking about the title of his exhibition, Folk Wisdom Perry said: “These are common-sense beliefs passed down orally through generations of ordinary people. They are widely-held ideas which are not necessarily rational or scientifically proven, but in them, more often than not, is a grain of truth”.
Folk Wisdom will include Perry’s important recent work Matching Pair, 2017 – two monumental pots – which were made about Brexit and the battle between those who voted for Britain to leave the EU and those who wished to remain. They were created following an appeal by Perry through social media, when he invited the public to contribute ideas, images, phrases and photographs to represent the things people loved about Britain, their favourite brands, who represented their values and their thoughts about Brexit. That they look remarkably similar is, according to Perry, ‘a good result, for we all have much more in common than that which separates us.’
Just as an apparently benign or conservative medium such as ceramic is used to convey challenging ideas, Perry’s tapestries take an art form traditionally associated with grand houses – depicting classical myths, historical and religious scenes and epic battles – and play with the idea of using this ancient allegorical art to elevate the commonplace dramas and societal divisions of modern British life.
In the large-scale tapestry Battle of Britain, 2017, Perry creates a vista not dissimilar to the landscape of Essex, where he lived as a child. In its composition, it is redolent of one of Perry’s favourite paintings, Battle of Britain, 1941, by the British artist Paul Nash, in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London. The work thus weaves in personal references with those alluding to current conflicts within our society.
Folk Wisdom exhibition also presents Perry’s famous motorbike, a Kenilworth AM1, 2010. Both artwork and mode of transport, it epitomises a broader theme in his art: the cultural, psychological and metaphorical journeys we all undertake from birth to death.
Artist Talk on Friday 13th April at 6pm.
Grayson Perry (b. 1960, Chelmsford, UK) began his artistic career in the 1980s. He has held numerous solo exhibitions in the UK, Europe, the US, and Australia. The artist is based in London. He is the recipient of many awards and accolades, including Britain’s foremost art award, the Turner Prize, in 2003.
The exhibition is organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in collaboration with La Monnaie de Paris, Paris.