‘I found I really liked making pots. It was a good vehicle for what I wanted to say…’

Since winning the Turner Prize in 2003, Grayson Perry has become the UK’s most familiar cross-dresser and potter, and known as a tapestry-maker, curator, writer and presenter. Of his alter-ego Claire, Perry says: ‘being a transvestite makes me not worry about being cool. I think being cool is a barrier to creativity, because you worry about what people think.’

Born in 1960 in Chelmsford, Perry studied sculpture at the University of Portsmouth.

Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry © Richard Ansett / Image courtesy of BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lectures 2013 Provided by Vertex Art Gallery
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Grayson Perry The Art Institute of Chicago http://www.artic.edu

His pots, which he slab-builds or coils himself, look like beautiful works of art. However, these pieces carry messages of horror which Perry refers to as ‘stealth bombs’. Nothing with Perry is as it first seems.

Difficult Background, 2001, appears to refer nostalgically to childhood, with figures of children playing, dressed in 1950s-style clothes. However, a closer look reveals scrawled images of terror and war: burning buildings, blasted trees, naked figures running screaming from others carrying rifles. A girl presents an apple to a boy over a fallen signpost labelled ‘lost innocence’. Perry thus makes a powerful statement about the atrocities of conflict.

‘being a transvestite makes me not worry about being cool. I think being cool is a barrier to creativity, because you worry about what people think.’