Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career

With an art practice spanning thirty years, British artist Grayson Perry has questioned ideas around ‘what constitutes art?’ He continues to intrigue those who lay eyes on his creations. Through his elaborate and decorative ceramics, sculptures, drawings, prints and tapestries, Perry has considered an expansive list of themes and subject areas. The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) will host a major survey of Perry’s work, the first in the southern hemisphere. ‘Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career’ is presented as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2015-16. This highly anticipated survey follows Grayson’s creative journey from the early 1980s to now.

Curated by MCA Chief Curator, Rachel Kent, ‘Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career’ exposes a series of key themes. Kent explains, “Grayson has drawn on a range of historical precedents, as well as ideas and imagery from everyday life in his art. It combines deeply personal references to his own history, family and sexual identity, as well as wider social and political commentary – for example, an exploration of class and identity in Britain today.” Transvestism has been a fundamental force in the artist’s personal and artistic life finding expression through various works in the exhibition including Precious Boys and Western Man. Perry’s feminine persona, Claire, is understood to be a ‘central plank’ in his creative identity. Kent says, “The wider exploration and complexity of masculine identity today is central through his art and life, and is something I find particularly pertinent for Australian audiences.”

The exhibition brings together thirty ceramic pieces spanning the artist’s career. These have been accumulated from collections around the world. Kent says that drawing together a substantial representation of Perry’s ceramic works did come as a challenge due to their fragility and small scale. Viewers will see some of Perry’s earliest ceramics made in 1983, when he attended night pottery classes in London. His playfully charming and brightly illustrated ceramics outlay a construction of narratives that deviate from the artist’s personal reflections to political references and comments. Kent says, “Also on display are the artist’s sculptures in iron and brass, his prints, the tapestries he has been making since the 2000s, and a host of other material including sketch books, drawings, plus selected costumes and photographs that give a wider context to his art practice.” References are made to Alan Measles; Perry’s childhood teddy bear, which became a substitute father figure during his childhood days. Kent says that the bear came to represent “an all powerful, protective demi-god with his own religion of tolerance, or ‘holding one’s beliefs lightly’.”

The MCA provides a space where people can tap into Perry’s world and see some of the influences that determined his projects. The survey delivers an expansive overview of Perry’s career, and Kent hopes that people will, “find many surprises, from the extraordinary craftsmanship of some of the objects themselves, as well as their aesthetic power, to the social and political messages they contain. Grayson describes his works as ‘stealth bombs’; they draw you in visually, then deliver their message, with humour, pathos and precision.”

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
10 December to 1 May, 2016