Claire – Outrageously flamboyant

Claire-GraysonFrom 4 November 2017 – 4 February 2018 the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is hosting the exhibition ‘Making Himself Claire: Grayson Perry’s Dresses’. Regular readers of this Blog will know I am a big fan of Grayson Perry and his work. And, Claire is a force of nature.

Claire Turner Prize dress
Turner Prize dress, silk satin, polyester and computer controlled embroidery, designed by Grayson Perry, 2003.  Worn by Perry as his alter ego Claire when he collected the Turner Prize for Art in 2003.

The Exhibition is displaying ensembles designed by students of Central St Martins for this world-famous,  cross-dressing artist as well as outfits designed by Grayson Perry himself.

Sarah Hall Central St Martins
Dress, printed polyester and wool, designed by Sarah Hall, Central St Martins, London, 2009. Deliberately unsettling imagery reflecting the designs of Perry’s ceramics which often have darker meanings upon closer examination.
Angus Lai and Grayson Perry
Dress, printed polyester satin, designed by Angus Lai, Central St Martins, London 2014. And Angus with Grayson Perry in a similar dress in a shorter length. Photo David Levene for The Guardian

A friend of mine recently went along and took some photos to share with me as I can’t get to Liverpool to see these fabulous, outrageous creations.

dress and matching bonnet
Dress and matching bonnet, printed and appliquéd cotton, mixed fabrics and ceramic buttons, designed by Grayson Perry, 2008.

The Exhibition is taking place in the Craft and Design Gallery of the Walker Art Gallery.

high priestess cape grayson perry 2007
High Priestess Cape, silk satin, rayon and computer controlled embroidery, designed by Grayson Perry, 2007.

There is a perennial question ‘Is it art or is it craft?’ that bothers some folk, but I think we can say that both in his Turner Prize winning work, and, his personal expression as Claire, it is all first rate visual culture with no need for post-medieval boundaries.

Here’s a short video from the Walker Gallery of Grayson discussing the Exhibition.

 

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100 years ago today

 

19240-shrouds-of-the-somme

From 2014 to 2018 there have been and will be a number of different moments when people remember and commemorate the tragedy that was the First World War. For military historians the 15th September 1916 saw the first use of tanks on a battlefield. Tanks were deployed and active in the fighting at the Battle of Flers–Courcelette. This battle was part of the long and infamous Battle of the Somme that had begun over two months before. It is hard for us to appreciate 100 years later the desperation of those times. Nobody could have imagined in 1914, at the beginning of the war, that two years later 19,240 British soldiers would lose their lives on the fist day of any battle, but that is what happened at the Somme on the 1st July 1916.

Figurines-in-shrouds.jpg

Remembering heroes, battles and wars is part of human culture. How we commemorate various aspects of World War One says as much about how we view war, violence and sacrifice today as it does about how we think about the horror and carnage of the past. Perhaps somewhere an artist is marking the arrival of the tank into warfare, but it is a tricky subject. Today we don’t want glorification. National memorials are seldom hard, enduring sculptures instead they are fleeting events or services, or, ephemeral installations attempting to capture the vast, incomprehensible loss of life. Such an art project was the ‘19240 Shrouds of the Somme’ by Rob Heard that was set out in the Northernhay Gardens in Exeter, Devon.

The work showed 19,240 figurines each laid out in its own handmade shroud. The artist obtained the seven volumes of the War Graves Commission’s lists of those who died on the 1st July 1916 and recited each soldier’s name as he wrapped a figurine in its shroud and crossed that name off the list.

The overall work has a desperate, poignant appearance and the scale allows the observer to see each discrete form, each individual death, repeated over and over again. It isn’t remotely pretty – why should it be. It is marking a terrible event. The work looks wretched, pitiful and sorrowful without being sentimental. It works in all the ways that the over-hyped, simplistic and incredibly sentimental ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ did not. That was the poppy installation that filled the Tower of London moat with gaudy, ceramic poppies in a trite representation of the carnage of war.

sentimental-poppies-at-tower
Sentimental – how to make the blood of war acceptable. Not 21st century art’s finest hour.