Grayson Perry (British, b.1960) was born in Chelmsford, England, and lived in Bicknacre after his father left the family. Perry cited his father's departure as having a large impact on his life. His mother remarried, and Perry attended Woodham Ferrers Church of England School and King Edward VI Grammar School. His stepfather was violent, and young Perry often hid in his father's old shed. During these difficult times, Perry often used his imagination, creating a fantasy life for himself.

 

Perry became interested in building model airplanes, and enjoyed riding motorcycles. Perry had unconventional tastes and sometimes dressed as a woman. This upset his mother, and she kicked him out of the house. After going out on his own, Perry decided to become an artist. He studied at Braintree College of Further Education from 1978 to 1979, and received a BA from Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1982. Unable to return home, the young artist spent time in squat houses and was often poor. He developed an interest in pottery and took lessons at the Central Institute. His first pieces were glazed plates covered in text. Eventually, Perry's skills improved, and he created many talented works such as Saint Claire 37 wanks across Northern Spain. The brightly colored earthenware urn is textured and decorated with photos and hand-drawn images. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam displayed his work in 2002, and one year later he became the first ceramic artist to be given the Turner Prize. The artist continued to dress as a woman and attended the award presentation in drag.

 

Perry's style is a combination of Greek influences and Folk Art techniques. Cuddly Toys Caught on Barbed Wire features young girls in pretty dresses against an eerie backdrop. The artist said, "One of the reasons I dress up as a woman is my low self-esteem, to go with the image of women being seen as second class. It is like pottery: that's seen as a second-class thing too."

 

Perry's famous tapestry 'Who Are You' exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015. It is a kind of portrait of a nation (“you could lay it out for a national picnic,” he says) and, like a lot of Perry’s work, teeters at the junction between earnestness and satire. The form is based on a £10 note with, of course, the Queen presiding over the image – but not depicted as the stern regal personage of our real currency, but rather as if she were “your auntie”, says Perry. 

 

Perry's work has been showcased at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Perry is married and currently resides in London. His work will exhibit at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery as part of our Mix: Summer Group Show 2016, opening on July 29th.

Works