Grayson Perry by Jackie Klein (Thames and Hudson, £24.95)

Grayson-PerryThis book made me laugh out loud. It started with the Westfield Vase, which appears towards the end. Grayson Perry made the pot with a map of Westfield on it. He writes, ‘Westfield shopping centre had just opened in Shepherd’s Bush, a sort of Death Star of consumerism landed in West London … It’s an enormous sophisticated machine for selling stuff, none of which I would want to buy.’ He smashed the vase with a hammer, and then a ceramic restorer, Bouke de Vries, stuck it back together again using filler covered in gold leaf. ‘The gold lines represent a kind of alternative map; they are almost desire lines, but desire lines of destruction,’ Perry writes.

 Using gold leaf reflected the traditional mending with gold lacquer of ancient Chinese or Korean vases, which Perry had seen at the British Museum (a favourite place). ‘I love that history of honouring important ceramics,’ says Perry. ‘As an object lover, it’s great; this is veneration of the object at its most extreme. I wanted to combine that idea with something that really horrifies me.’

Such tension permeates this uplifting collection. Fragile vases might be smashed or broken at any time. A new generation is sucked towards the Shepherd’s Bush Death Star, but Perry characteristically goes in the opposite direction. There is real iconoclasm about his work,  which subverts the form (icons, quilts, as well as ceramics) with outspoken content, often personal (‘look mum, i’m a jet pilot’), often public (dolls at dungeness, september 11th, 2001). He does this with consummate skill; an artist with a manifest appreciation of his chosen media.

 Beautifully printed in Singapore, and reasonably priced for what it is, this stunning collection comes to life courtesy of the artist’s outspoken commentaries on his own extensive output.. Essex has another great artist to rank alongside John Constable.

Tony Simpson

 

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