Grayson Perry at Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Artist: Grayson Perry

Exhibition title: Folk Wisdom

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland

Date: March 13 – September 2, 2018

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Award-winning British artist Grayson Perry is an astute commentator on contemporary society and culture. His show at Kiasma consists of classical ceramic pots and large tapestries on unexpected subjects: Brexit, aesthetic tastes and masculine ideals, as well as the artist’s personal life.

Grayson Perry explores subjects that are universally human: identity, gender, social status, sexuality and religion. In Britain he is also a highly regarded public speaker and maker of award-winning television documentaries.

The exhibition at Kiasma comprises nearly fifty works. In addition to ceramics and tapestries, it also includes pieces made of cast iron and bronze.

Perry is fascinated by the tension between craft and fine art. Ceramics, for example, are still often considered a harmless decorative medium, but for Perry it is a vehicle for contemporary art. His pots seem classical, but on closer inspection they often surprise, with their surfaces covered with motifs ranging from politics to domestic drama, from consumer culture to sadomasochistic sex.

Perry says that he does not choose his motifs merely to shock. Instead, he says, “sex, war and gender are subjects that are part of me and fascinate me, and I feel I have something to say about them.”

British society, with its pleasures and injustices, is the subject of many of Perry’s works. In the series of large tapestries, on show at Kiasma, Perry comments on class distinctions and aesthetic taste in British society. The works are full of detail: furniture, clothes, food, books and cars.

One of the works on display explores the 2016 Brexit referendum. To create the piece, Perry travelled to meet people who lived in areas where the leavers and the remainders had the largest bases. Matching Pair consists of two pots, one for each side of the battle.

Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford, UK, in 1960. He began his artistic career in the 1980s. He is a versatile artist and the recipient of many awards and accolades, including Britain’s foremost art award, the Turner Prize (2003). He was made member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2012.

Perry lives and works in London. In addition to Britain, he has held solo exhibitions in Europe and Australia.

Perry talks openly and unabashedly about his own life, and his work contains a strong autobiographical element as well. During his childhood he retreated into a private world of fantasy and in his teens discovered his predilection for cross-dressing. His female alter ego Claire and his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles appear in many of his works. The works on show at Kiasma include Claire’s outfit for her coming-out ceremony and Alan Measles sitting on Perry’s motorcycle.

The Folk Wisdom exhibition showcases Perry’s work from the last two decades. Folk wisdom consists of common-sense beliefs passed down orally through generations of ordinary people. “They are not necessarily rational or scientifically proven, but in them, more often than not, is a grain of truth.” Perry’s art is also full of folk wisdom and shared beliefs.

The exhibition is produced collaboratively by Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and La Monnaie de Paris.

Grayson Perry, The Dresses, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Shadow Boxing, 2016, glazed ceramic, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small,  Differences: #Lamentation, 2012, tapestry, wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small,  Differences: #Lamentation, 2012, tapestry, wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Agony in the Car Park, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Agony in the Car Park, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal, 2012tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal, 2012tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, From the series The Vanity of Small Differences: The Upper Class at Bay, 2012, tapestry; wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester, silk, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; The Vanity of Small Differences, 2012, six tapestries, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Folk Wisdom, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; The Vanity of Small Differences, 2012, six tapestries, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Our Mother, 2009, cast iron, oil paint, string, cloth, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Our Father, 2007, cast iron, oil paint, string, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Our Mother, 2009, cast iron, oil paint, string, cloth, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Vote Alan Measles for God, 2007, handmade tapestry; wool, Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Death of a Working Hero, 2016, tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London / Venice, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Death of a Working Hero, 2016, tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Death of a Working Hero, 2016, tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Death of a Working Hero, 2016, tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Britain is Best, 2014, hand embroidery; silk, glass beads, sequins, cotton thread, Published by Paragon. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Map of Truths and Beliefs, 2011, tapestry, Published by Paragon. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Comfort Blanket, 2014, tapestry, Published by Paragon. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon / Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Precious Boys, 2004, glazed ceramic, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Precious Boys, 2004, glazed ceramic, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Battle of Britain, 2017, tapestry, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Battle of Britain, 2017 (detail), tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Battle of Britain, 2017 (detail), tapestry, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry, Kenilworth AM1, 2010, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, The Dresses, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, The Dresses, 2018, exhibition view, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Grayson Perry, Matching Pair, 2017, glazed ceramic, © Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice

Grayson Perry as Claire, 2016, © Richard Ansett

Grayson Perry as Claire, 2016, © Richard Ansett

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