This summer Turner Contemporary presents Provincial Punk, a focussed survey exhibition rooted in the development of Grayson Perry’s practice in the early-1980s and the idea of ‘Provincial Punk’ as an anti-elitist and teasingly unfashionable spirit of creativity that has consistently driven his practice.
Provincial Punk explores Perry’s uniquely subversive practice, from a young artist forging his own artistic language in 1980’s Britain to his status today as one of the most prominent and incisive commentators on contemporary society and culture. More than 50 works from 1981 until 2014 will be presented, including ceramics, tapestries, drawings, prints and films.
“I was a punk in the provincial sense. I was there in my bedroom with an old school shirt stencilling the word ‘hate’ onto it, looking out onto the lush turf of the north Essex countryside. Then, when I came to London, I was hanging out with people who were at the cutting edge of fashion – Body map, John Maybury, Cerith Wyn Evans, Steven Jones and Michael Clark were my part of my social circle at the time. And yet I was making pottery … with a Shetland woolly jumper view of the world and that was funny.
The idea of ‘Provincial Punk’ is an oxymoron but it encapsulates creatively some sort of spirit in my work that still goes on to this day. It is a very creative force, a willingness to turn things over, to not accept the fashion and to have a bit of fun. It is a kind of teasing rebellion; it is not a violent revolution.”
Described as ‘a great chronicler of contemporary life’, Grayson Perry is well known for his beautifully crafted artworks that combine autobiographical reference with wry social commentary on themes ranging from class, taste, consumerism and war, to art versus craft
Grayson Perry’s in-depth engagement with mark-making, craft and technique, and his testing of the boundaries between art and craft are important themes in Provincial Punk, explored through his ceramics, drawings, films, tapestries and prints. Central to the exhibition will be an extensive display of Perry’s ceramic pots, including some of his earliest works from the late 1980s through to the present day. Perry’s hand-made, richly glazed pots are visually seductive, covered in drawings, handwritten texts and collaged elements. Consciously seeking to subvert ceramics’ apparent second-class status as ‘craft’ within the world of fine art, their traditional, decorative form belies their content, touching on themes such as religion, childhood trauma and environmental disaster.
Provincial Punk includes previously unseen collaged and watercolour painted sketchbooks from the 1980s that mix confessional diary, sexual fantasy and political critique. These are shown alongside the artist’s rarely seen super-8 films, including Bungalow Depression (1984) and The Poor Girl (1985), set against a backdrop of Thatcherite Britain. A number of recent tapestries are showcased, such asThe Walthamstow Tapestry (2009), which depicts a journey from birth to death told through consumer brands, alongside etchings including Map of an Englishman (2004) and Print for a Politician (2005). For Perry, his work has not changed. “Even at college I see most of the things I am interested in now: the religious, ritual element, the social issues and the decorative. It is just a matter of sophistication and craft skills that develop.”