Today’s blog is a hymn in praise of Grayson Perry, the Turner Prize winner potter, sublime artist, transvestite and up there for most interesting person alive award. He is warm, engaging and completely brilliant.
I can not get enough of him, his art and his ideas. His ability to articulate high concepts to a layperson in his series of Reith Lectures on Contemporary was extraordinary. He is a natural teacher. If you didn’t hear the lectures you can download them from the BBC website.
His Channel 4 documentary last year on taste and class was so revelatory. He looked at working, middle and upper class in turn and through meeting members of the public and observing them in their home environment examined how we use objects to identify which social strata we belong to and why. That he managed to do this without judgement, his questioning, probing but always with the utmost sensitivity, was remarkable. We might have moved away from a “know your place society” but those social-economic fault lines run deep in the British psyche still today. That he was able tackle this fascinating but potentially very tricky subject without putting a foot wrong says everything about Grayson himself. How he communicates his thoughts and ideas is so thrilling it feels like my mind lights up as I drink in his words. It may sound a little far-fetched but I can almost feel my synapses buzzing and fizzing with excitement. The very definition of mind-expanding.
He is now tackling identity in modern Britain with the same humanity. In the past two episodes he has created portraits of his subjects using several different disciplines. (They are currently being displayed at the National Portrait Gallery until March). As you would expect from this thought-provoking artist, he is tackling a very broad array of individuals and groups. From a recently released from prison Chris Hulme; a White British girl who converted to Islam (hers was a tapestry hijab showing her life story); a transsexual depicted as an Peter Pan like African statue in bronze; a Christian collective; a gay couple with a mixed race child; and last week so movingly he dealt with a couple whose husband was suffering with Alzheimer’s . How who we are are is so wrapped up in the lives and memories of other people, especially in our nearest and dearest, and what happens when that starts to disappear. It was profoundly touching and when the wife saw the pot where Grayson had depicted their lives and memories with the family photos cut into shards she said you have got it exactly right.
It seemed that night the whole of Twitter were in tears, there was an outpouring of admiration, love and praise for Mr Perry. If he wasn’t already a national treasure before he certainly is now and it delights me that a man of his many abilities and intelligence is curating our multifaceted modern lives for future generations with such empathy.
If you haven’t heard or watched him yet please have a look, I promise time with Grayson Perry will enrich your life in so many ways. The third episode of Who Are You? is on Channel 4 on Wednesday 10 pm
and if you live in Leeds The Vanity of Small Differences, the set of 6 tapestries he created in conjunction with his look at British aesthetics is being displayed at Temple Newsam until 7 December.