Grayson Perry Artist – Raymond Loewy Designer

children being creative
Creativity in Progress – A Junior School Class Textile Prints with Freehand Additions.
Grayson Perry delivered his fourth and final Reith Lecture this morning, I Found Myself in the Art World and it was another fine entertaining, but this time more poignant reflection on the nature of being an artist in the Contemporary Art World. During the course of the lecture he drew our attention again to the playful creativity of children and how an artist strives to nurture yet protect that core of their psyche where serious play generates art.

good bad ugly Jake Dinos Chapman
‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (2007) – Jake and Dinos Chapman. Installation for Sculpture in the City 2013.

Grayson Perry continued that artists’ works often express some difficulties they have had in their lives. He suggested that the creative process allows them to work through significant transformational events in the act of producing their art. A process that is recognised by some artists as they overtly use these events. However, other artists are psychologically unaware of these experiences, but still nevertheless they are the engine of their artistic production. He continued that this need to express oneself was not confined to the professional artist, but was evident in ‘outsider art’ such as that of the Chicago janitor, Henry Darger, and Prehistoric Art such as the cave paintings of early humans.

Henry Darger book illustration
Example of Outsider Art – Book illustration by the Chicago hospital janitor, Henry Darger.

Perhaps, we should also include amateur art in this discussion as although certainly not an asset class, for the artist the work is a valuable vehicle for creative expression and its production is often of psychological benefit.

pastel picture register office wedding
The Signing – Valeria Willett. (1997) Pastel
Big Ben pavement
‘Big Ben Interrupted’ Unknown, 2013,
Pavement Art Embankment, London.

As with the other lectures in this series an interesting little titbit came out during the final Q&A. A Central St Martin’s student asked about career prospects for a young artist and Grayson replied that it was always good to have a plan B. When quizzed about his own plan B, Grayson said he thought that he would have gone into advertising on the visual design side. As I was listening I thought how interesting and what a coincidence as today, 5 November, is the birthday of Raymond Loewy.

Loewy logos
Some famous Loewy logos.
A product’s signature!

Grayson Perry had quoted Loewy, a great industrial designer and graphic artist, in his third lecture when contemplating the challenge of the avant-garde. He had mentioned the Loewy principle, MAYA, “most advanced yet acceptable” when discussing a new artist’s offering to the art world and in a way this reflects Grayson’s own challenge to the art world when he made POTS.


22 November 2013 -ADDITIONAL INTERESTING COMMENTARY regarding the impact of Grayson Perry and his art from the Historian Prof. Lisa Jardine

Grayson Perry – Can Art Shock the Bobos?

rusty metal sculptureDelivering his third talk in the Reith Lecture series, Grayson Perry contemplates whether contemporary art still has the power to shock. He delivers his lecture called ‘Nice Rebellion, Welcome In!’ in a lively, entertaining style with no stuffiness, but don’t be fooled he is seriously questioning the importance of sincerity in our postmodern, ironic world. Available to listen to at

grayson perry chelmsford museum
Grayson Perry at the Chelmsford Museum with his pot ‘The Chelmsford Sissies’
Art Fund 2004
Drawing on his own experience Grayson Perry recounts how he found the world of 1980s postmodernism had already been there and done it all. The art world’s relentless quest for the new, innovative, cutting edge idea had used up ‘shock’ and negated its power. Anything could be art and nothing could shock anymore. Grayson suggests even the lifestyle of the artist has been democratised and incorporated into everyday living, all kinds of people are bobos. That is ordinary folk that now have a little bit of bohemian-ness about them. Bobos is short for bourgeois and bohemian (coined by David Brooks in 2000 in his book ‘Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There). Grayson mused that, “Since the 1960s everyone’s become a bit of an artist”.

Richard Serra 'Fulcrum'
Fulcrum -Richard Serra, 1987. 5 Cor-ten steel panels 55 ft tall leaning together.
Site-specific sculpture at Broadgate, London.

Of his own debut into the world of contemporary art Grayson Perry had wanted to shock and had wanted to announce, “You’re the old people who made rusty metal sculptures we are the new people who are making this sort of work!”, but it had all been done. Talking of rusty metal, Richard Serra springs to mind and particularly for me, as by chance, my sister and I looked around ‘Fulcrum’ a couple of weeks ago. Richard Serra has been disturbing space and us with his enormous rusting steel sculptures since the early 1970s. His site-specific work nowadays may still be called challenging and is sometimes controversial due its sheer size, in this case 55 feet/16.8 metres of rusting steel, but it does not shock. More of Serra’s smaller scale work can be seen at

Through the course of the lecture Grayson Perry develops the idea that art is in its end game and although there will always be new work it is only ‘tweaking’ a past idea. And, he suggests that what will separate out the good artist will not be all the postmodern knowing and cynicism attached to their work, but the artist’s sincere intent in its creation. Finally, as a parting shot Grayson commented that a contemporary art work could possibly shock by being beautiful!

Here are a couple of pieces of ageing metal, both functional, one’s a flagpole and one’s a hot water cylinder. Beautiful? Art?

Grayson Perry – If I Say So

In his second Reith lecture, called ‘Beating the Bounds’, Grayson Perry takes us on a whistle-stop tour round the parish bounds of contemporary art. This half hour talk delivered in his provocative yet playful style discusses the question – can anything be called art? It is available to listen to at

Grayson Perry explains that through the course of the twentieth century the boundaries of art have expanded rapidly from the time of Duchamp (‘Fountain’ 1917, a found, mass produced urinal) to include pretty much anything. A shark in a tank – if I say so. A sleeping Tilda Swinton in a glass box – if I say so. Well, it is art if Damien Hirst and Cornelia Parker say it is. But, Grayson Perry, himself a conceptual artist, suggests that everything is not art and there are boundaries even if they are porous, ill-defined and flexible. In his entertaining lecture he lists a number of markers to consider. For example, who created the work, where is the work situated both in the physical world and the art historical context, why was the work created and what is the audience engagement and response.

blue cockerel
A Blue Cockerel

Fouth Plinth sculpture
Katharina Fritsch’s cockerel on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London
Art in context.
As with his first lecture he embellishes his points with significant and contemporary examples which are fascinating and often amusing. He wants to make contemporary art more accessible and less intimidating to the non-specialist audiences. A more personal insight into Grayson Perry’s own approach to the process of creation was glimpsed during the brief Q&A at the end of the lecture. A member of the audience enquired about the nature of creativity quoting Picasso saying, “All children are artists, the problem is keeping them artists”. Grayson replied that there were good child artists and bad child artists and credited children with relaxed, spontaneous and free expression, but nevertheless it is creative expression without self-awareness. He suggested that to make art the maker cannot be an innocent. However, the very state of being self-conscious brings pressure. He mused, “I can tell you from personal experience, that, the more successful you become the more pressure there is of self-consciousness, and how I would love to be that little child with a box of Lego bricks again.” He suggests that to be a contemporary artist the artist needs to be aware of art’s history, that art works have both aesthetic and financial value in the art world and that these works have audiences. Furthermore once set free from the artist, audiences will ultimately engage with and respond to these creations subjectively. Of his own response to art Grayson said he is old fashioned and that what is important for him is he can go and see and touch ‘the real thing’.

Below I have selected three images. Each is an example of a ‘type’ mentioned by Grayson. Just glance at these three images out of context and decide which one you think is art. Then click on each for more information, but still be subjective – draw your own conclusion!

Sorry, not really a fair question as they should all be excellent versions of their type and they are not. But speaking subjectively (and that is very subjectively) I think two of the three examples are very nearly the best of their type!

The Reith Lectures – Grayson Perry on ‘Art’

This morning the BBC broadcast the first of this year’s Reith Lectures on Radio 4. Traditionally, the Reith Lectures are given by a well-known and leading figure in a specific field tackling a prominent and contemporary issue within that field. There is an extensive archive of past series of lectures available on the BBC website.

This year’s series, “Playing to the Gallery”, is given by the Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry. (A previous post of mine discusses his ‘Hogarthian’ tapestry series.)

As an artist making contemporary pieces that carry subversive messages Grayson Perry uses the traditional craft forms of pottery or tapestry. His work is both popular and highly respected. Proposed with some glee as well as seriousness, he sets out to answer the significant question of who validates art. It is the theme for his first lecture called, “Democracy Has Bad Taste”. The lecture is a half hour talk with a 15 minute Q&A at the end. It is an easy listen as Grayson Perry fluently and amusingly covers the interrelationship between the different groups, artists, dealers, collectors, curators, media commentators and the public that make up the received consensus.

During the lecture he mentions painting and sculpture, but also discusses the significance of ‘found’ art (objet trouvé – Marcel Duchamp) and also the rise of performance art. He admits to bringing an autobiographical overview to the questions he poses and divulges his preference as a school boy for Victorian Narrative art such as works by Frith.

Derby Day - Frith
Derby Day – William Powell Frith, RA, 1858. Original in Tate Gallery, London.

But a surprising insight into what Grayson Perry personally values now as ‘great art’ was revealed in the Q&A when Art Historian and Tate Trustee, David Ekserdjian, asked, “If we could give you as a present, a work of art, what would you take?” Interestingly, he chose a sixteenth-century painting, Bruegel’s ‘Procession to Calvary’.

Bruegel Brueghel Procession to Calvary
The Procession to Calvary – Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1564)
Oil on oak panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The Web Gallery of Art

Grayson then quipped, “You could probably get a tea towel of it, it’s that popular!”
Actually, the first image on my Google search for Bruegel’s ‘The Procession to Calvery’ 1564, was not a tea towel, but a T shirt for $24.99.

Bruegel  art t shirt
Not a tea towel but a T shirt!

The full lecture “Democracy Has Bad Taste” is available for one year.

Little note – I have to admit to being especially interested when I read reports of Grayson Perry discussing various aspects of his young life in Essex. He spent some time living in a small village called Bicknacre (hence the name of the pot – top right) and I grew up in Bicknacre’s adjoining village, Danbury.