Selected works by Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry
Barbaric Splendour

2003

Glazed ceramic

67 x 35 cm

Perry's forms and content are always incongruous: classic Greecian-like urns bearing friezes of car-wrecks, cell-phones, supermodels, as well as more dark and literary scenes, often incorporate auto-biographical references.

Grayson Perry
Golden Ghosts

2000

Earthenware

65 x 39 x 39 cm
Unhappy expressions on the little girls’ faces in Golden Ghosts contrast sharply with the idyllic country cottages stenciled in the background. Perry often uses found images to create a mood or a tension – the exceptionally sad image of the seated girl is that of a child affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster. This evocative work hints at a familiarity with psychotherapy, made at a time when Perry was coming to terms with his own unhappy past. Perry’s transvestite alter ego, Claire, appears outlined in gold as the ghost in the title, dressed in the elaborate embroidered Coming Out Dress, made for a performance in 2000.
Grayson Perry
We've Found the Body of Your Child

2000

Earthenware

49 x 30 x 30 cm

This has the preciousness of a well-travelled Russian antique. Glazed in golds, silvers and whites, Perry’s urn tells a Gothic tale of a child’s death in a gloomy small town. The image is timeless: it could be yesterday or eighty years ago; but almost certainly it has to be Eastern European – nowhere else could such horrific grief be met with such fairy-tale romanticism.

Grayson Perry
Over the Rainbow

2001

Earthenware

53 x 41 cm

People say, ‘why do you need to put sex, violence or politics or some kind of social commentary into my work?’ Without it, it would be pottery. I think that crude melding of those two parts is what makes my work.”

Grayson Perry
Cuddly Toys Caught on Barbed Wire

2001

Earthenware

55 x 38 x 38 cm

Perry reveals ‘One of the reasons I dress up as a woman is my low self-esteem, to go with the image of women being seen as second class…It is like pottery: that’s seen as a second-class thing too’.

Grayson Perry
Saint Claire 37 wanks accross Northern Spain

2003

Earthenware

84 x 55 x 55 cm

Perry’s urns are rendered with an incomprehensible master-craft: their surfaces richly textured from designs marked into the clay, followed by intricately complicated glazing and photo-transfer techniques. Perry makes ceramic pots, hand-stitched quilts, and outrageous dress designs, creating a cosmopolitan folk-art.

Grayson Perry
I Want to be an Artist

1996

Earthenware

66 x 42 x 42 cm

A master of the incongruous juxtaposition, Grayson Perry scrawls savage satirical messages alongside sentiments of nostalgia for lost innocence.

Grayson Perry
Troubled

2000



42 x 25 x 25 cm

“I’m not an innovator, ceramic-wise. I use very traditional forms, techniques and it’s merely the carrier of the message. That’s how I want to keep it. But I’m always aware that it’s a pot. It’s not like I take it for granted. I’m always aware that I’m working on a vase and what that means”

Grayson Perry
All Men are Bastards

2001



45 x 27 x 27 cm
Melding handicraft and consumer culture, his objects are luxury one-of-a-kinds with a Rodeo Drive chic.
Grayson Perry
Punters in the Snow

1999



40 x 25 x 25 cm

“We’re only here once and I want to get as much out of it possible. And as an artist, my job is to be as much "me" as possible.”

Grayson Perry
Spirituality my Arse

1997



58 x 33 x 33 cm

These highly decorative objects, often covered with layers of lustre, gold leaf and sugary kitsch transfers are, by the artist´s own admission, ´perversion to match the curtains´.

Grayson Perry
Whoring Grayson Perry Style

1997



85 x 36 x 36 cm

Grayson Perry’s urns are rendered with an incomprehensible master-craft: their surfaces richly textured from designs marked into the clay, followed by intricately complicated glazing and photo-transfer techniques.

Grayson Perry
Defenders of Childhood

2000

Earthenware

46 x 21 x 21 cm

Winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, British artist Grayson Perry creates seductively beautiful pots that convey challenging themes; at the heart of his practice is a passionate desire to comment on deep flaws within society. Perry uses pots as narrative and figurative media, a round, curved surface for a bizarre or bitter story.

Grayson Perry
Nostalgia for the Bad Times

1999



43 x 28 x 28 cm

"With ceramics, the purely decorative is its default position. But if you did a purely decorative painting, it’s still a painting but it’s within a context of contemporary art."

Grayson Perry
Transvestite Brides of Christ

2000

Earthenware

39 x 26 x 26 cm

These highly decorative objects, often covered with layers of lustre, gold leaf and sugary kitsch transfers are, by the artist´s own admission, ´perversion to match the curtains´.

Grayson Perry
Triumph of Innocence

2000

Earthenware

70 x 23 x 23 cm

Perry’s urns are rendered with an incomprehensible master-craft: their surfaces richly textured from designs marked into the clay, followed by intricately complicated glazing and photo-transfer techniques.

These highly decorative objects, often covered with layers of lustre, gold leaf and sugary kitsch transfers are, by the artist´s own admission, ´perversion to match the curtains´.

Grayson Perry
Moonlit Wankers

2001



66 x 35 x 35 cm

“If I did something purely decorative, and I’ve approached that line a few times where I’ve looked at pieces and thought, ‘That’s pretty’, but it’s like potatoes without salt. I can’t stomach it.”

Grayson Perry
Two Children Born on the Same Day

1996

Earthenware

42 x 30 x 30 cm

Grayson Perry often uses found images to create a mood or a tension

Grayson Perry
Saint, Satin, Satan

1999



45 x 28 x 28 cm

“In the past I’ve made more raw work that was more blatantly provocative and without so much of a social understanding of what I was doing. I think the fact that it was pottery diffused that.”

Grayson Perry
Cries of London

1996



56 x 26 x 26 cm

For Grayson Perry, this is an expression of an unrecoverable lost innocence. Pastiched with delft images of ladies in waiting, delicate flowers, teddy bears, and embossed tear-drop patterns, Perry creates a hallowed place where unhappy souls exist as golden shadows of the children they never got to be.

Grayson Perry
Contained Anger





36 x 24 x 24 cm
Inspired by Grayson Perry’s experiences as a transvestite, his ‘little girl’ vases hint at an autobiographical referencing: his penchant for wearing baby doll dresses, and the questions of male-role models and the development of his sexuality in his childhood.
Grayson Perry
I Hate You, I Hate Myself

2000



31 x 20 x 20 cm
The pots are covered in a kind of psychic collage replete with stark, expressionistic drawings, hand written text, stencilled lettering and photographs.
Grayson Perry
Driven Man

2000



39 x 31 x 31 cm
Grayson Perry uses pots as narrative and figurative media, a round, curved surface for a bizarre or bitter story.
Grayson Perry
Oiks, Tarts, Wierdoes and Contemporary Art

1996



70 x 38 x 38 cm
“I’ve never done anything that was consciously just purely decorative. There always has to be a snag in it somewhere. It’s almost the defining characteristic of my work.”
Grayson Perry
Language of Cars

1999



39 x 28 x 28 cm
His work incorporates art history and the art world, consumer culture, scenarios of kinky sex and allusions to violence as well as images of himself, his family and his transvestite alter ego Claire.
Grayson Perry
Posh Bastards House

1999



55 x 23 x 23 cm

"I'm not an innovator, ceramic-wise. I use very traditional forms, techniques and it's merely the carrier of the message. That's how I want to keep it. But I'm always aware that it's a pot. It's not like I take it for granted. I'm always aware that I'm working on a vase and what that means"

Grayson Perry
Poverty

2000



87 x 27 x 27 cm

“The art world is a funny little place. It is a weird foreign country where they speak a funny language and if you want to operate in that land you have to speak that language - which is why 'craft' people don't get it sometimes.”

Grayson Perry
Discreetly Branded

1999



57 x 28 x 28 cm

The forms of the pots may be traditional, but Grayson Perry resolutely distances himself from the typical cannon of artistic ceramics.

Grayson Perry
Boring Cool People





Whilst depicting scenes of child abuse, bondage and sadomasochism or a gathering of society´s finest ´boring cool people´, the works remain elegant and lavish. These highly decorative objects, often covered with layers of lustre, gold leaf and sugary kitsch transfers are, by the artist´s own admission, ´perversion to match the curtains´.

Grayson Perry
We Are What We Buy

2000



50 x 22x 22 cm

Articles

TOP OF THE POTS


Frocks and pots are a first for The Turner Prize, but don't expect decorative vases from transvestite potter and TP 2003 winner Grayson Perry. Trace Newton-Ingham got to him before the advancing press pack...

First appearances would suggest that there are three people involved here. There's Claire, the over-sized kid in her puffball, 'Baby Jane' frocks replete with lace-trimmed socks; there's the Essex boy partial to revving-up on his Harley; then, there's the potter. The potter who dips into therapy and uses the process to create lush vases smeared with motifs of child abuse and family dysfunction.

The potter, Claire, the biker: they're all the same person - 43 year old artist Grayson Perry. They make a bizarre trio, but one needs the other to produce pots that strike the art world's bull's eye - a nomination for The Turner Prize (and a hot tip for winning it).

So what's spurring Grayson's ceramic endeavours? Where does his alter ego Claire fit into this? Does the Turner Prize nomination mean fine art arbiters will take ceramics seriously? Ideasfactory met up with the artist who "follows the path of most resistance" at his Kings Cross abode.

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Falling into it


Why did you start dabbling with ceramics? What appealed?

GP: I did do a little bit at college (Portsmouth). It was very basic stuff, but we had a terrible technician and everything came out all wrong - cracked or the wrong colour or something. It put me off, so I never did a lot at college.

But a friend who I was squatting with, who was one of the main inspirations in the squat - a very lively character - she was a trained potter and went to evening classes to keep her hand in. She said, "Oh, come along. The teacher's nice, and it's free."

Evening classes were free then, if you were on the dole. So I went along and quickly realised that it was a way of making something tangible, saleable and exhibitable.

I also liked the fact that it was kind of unfashionable, it had a bad reputation in the art world; generally, it was seen as the pretentious next-door neighbour. 'Contemporary Studio Ceramics': even that says all you need to know about it. That it even needs to define itself like that - that appealed to me. I have a motto "Follow the path of most resistance", that's what I'm drawn towards.

I started making plates - they were very easy to make. I could do a press mould of a plate - pretty much finish one in a lesson and have something to prop up on the mantelpiece. Now I might spend 6 months working on a piece.

At the time, I was more interested in filmmaking a lot of Super-8 film. I lived in a house full of filmmakers and that was my main ambition. But I saw also how you were immediately compromised because it was a collaborative process usually and you had to get a lot of money. Also the other filmmakers were much more advanced along than me. I saw it as a real minus: I wanted to be a kind of auteur, an individual.

James Birch came along to look at my girlfriend's paintings and saw my plates on the mantelpiece and said, "Ooh, do you want an exhibition?" He had a little gallery in Chelsea. Even though I made my first show out of evening classes, I had a huge number of pieces, about 70, and it sold really well. I ended up having five shows with him over the next decade.

So you hadn't gone into ceramics with the intention of exhibiting and selling?

GP: It was organic. I never had a strategy. So many students seem to think you have these days. I just bumbled along and it worked. I never admitted that ceramics were my main practise until probably another 5 or 10 years.

Even now, I'm working on projects that are non-ceramic related. I've got a big project coming up that's almost architectural. So it's like a painter who might make paintings but also does prints as well. I see it like that.

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The darkness


Do you do anything that's purely decorative or does all your work have these dark undercurrents?

GP: I think it has to have dark undercurrents. If I did something purely decorative, and I've approached that line a few times where I've looked at pieces and thought, "That's pretty", but it's like potatoes without salt. I can't stomach it.

With ceramics, the purely decorative is its default position. But if you did a purely decorative painting, it's still a painting but it's within a context of contemporary art.

I've never done anything that was consciously just purely decorative. There always has to be a snag in it somewhere. It's almost the defining characteristic of my work. People say, "why do you need to put sex, violence or politics or some kind of social commentary into my work?" Without it, it would be pottery. I think that crude melding of those two parts is what makes my work.

So it transcends the "pottery" stigma and moves over into the Fine Art bracket?

GP: Yeah. I'm not an innovator, ceramic-wise. I use very traditional forms, techniques and it's merely the carrier of the message. That's how I want to keep it. But I'm always aware that it's a pot. It's not like I take it for granted. I'm always aware that I'm working on a vase and what that means; but I've done so many now that it's natural. Drawing on a flat surface feels alien to me - I'm always drawing on a compound curve.

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Being 'In'


Do you think your exposure through the Turner Prize is going to make pottery cooler?

GP: Ooh, pottery is the new video! If anything it'll be like a gimmick that I've used. Hopefully, students will shy away from pottery because I would have done it. They'll go, "You're just copying Grayson Perry", and that'll be fine.

It must be the worst thing if you're a student and have a great idea, then a more famous artist comes along, copies it and gets the credit for it. You're fucked aren't you? I think that must be one of the most dispiriting things that can happen. I feel lucky; at least pottery is so unfashionable. I managed to get away without Gilbert & George doing 'The Pottery Show' or something.

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Roll up, Roll up


Do you like being part of the "Turner" Circus?

GP: Yeah, it's a great laugh. That's what it is, a circus. It is a serious art exhibition and it's a great show; this one is going to be the best year for several years.

It's also a kind of interface between the mainstream and the art world, and I treat it as such.

The art world is a funny little place. It is a weird foreign country where they speak a funny language and if you want to operate in that land you have to speak that language - which is why 'craft' people don't get it sometimes. They're like: "Well, I went to France and I shouted in English but nobody seemed to do anything for me." Well, you've got to speak French y'know.

There's a lot of unwillingness on a lot of people's part to learn the right language, because of they associate it with elitism.

GP: Exactly. That word 'elitism': they always think it's a mafia. I say: "Yeah, it's a mafia that only accepts Essex transvestite potters"(laughs). If I can get in, anybody can.

Has being short-listed changed anything, apart from the media thing you're caught up in?

GP: Well, I don't think I've made any work specifically. About a third of the show features new pieces, which I'd pretty well finished by the time I was nominated. I put in what I thought were my best pieces, and because my work is relatively small and I like density in a show, it's meant I've been able to show really good examples, picked from the last three years.

What I think it short-listing has affected are the numbers of people, including the media, who see the work.

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On the couch


How has therapy helped your work? Can it unlock creativity?

GP: I think it can. I think a lot of artists are wary of therapy because they think it will iron them out and that they think their creativity is about being quirky.

I'm no less quirky from having had therapy: if anything, I'm quirkier. I know what I'm doing now - it's almost like I'm optimising it. With Claire: Claire before therapy was a suburban, ordinary trannie. My awareness of how I thought about it suddenly made me realise: "Hang on, this isn't strong enough, I want something more."

We're only here once and I want to get as much out of it possible. And as an artist, my job is to be as much "me" as possible. So therapy has given me a lot of subject matter as well; it's helped me look at the world in a clearer way.

I use myself as a laboratory in a way, to investigate the world. I listen to my feelings about things and then check it out with people or books or whatever and it sends me off in directions I would never have gone otherwise. I can't recommend it enough really.

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Claire as Claire


Do you actually produce work as Claire or Grayson? How does that work?

GP: How does Claire work? It's funny. I've just been doing this thing for CNN, and the woman really wanted to film Claire doing something she does naturally. I said: "Claire does not do anything naturally. Claire is not a real person; it's me in a frock." All I do is swan about, look at myself in the mirror and primp, and go to parties, smile and have a nice time. She does not DO anything - she doesn't even make a bit of toast.

She's not work clothes, essentially?

GP: Claire does not do work clothes, certainly not now. Up until about 4 years ago, Claire was more your regular-looking woman, but I would always be too distracted to actually do anything dressed as Claire, because Claire is an end in herself. I did it for my own pleasure.

Claire doesn't make any pots. Claire is Claire, and God bless her. She's to be looked at and treasured because that's what I want. That is why I dress-up: to externalise my need for attention; almost like a child, to be doted upon. So I'm doted on, hopefully, while I'm Claire.

In which case, if Claire is an externalisation, is there a possibility of further externalisations?

GP: Further externalisations? I don't know. I'm so bloody sane and worked-out these days. It's very interesting that Claire is the result of a child's imagination. She's not the result of my adult imagination.

So she's a crude metaphor as understood by a child. She's not a sophisticated, complex enactment of an emotional life. A kid thinks "I feel like X". Girls get away with being like X, so therefore I must want to dress like a girl. That is the childish logic that informs the subconscious of a transvestite, and that then becomes hard-wired at puberty.

A lot of people have a problem with the nature versus nurture debate because they think then, "OK, if it's nurture, then it's curable". But I always say you can't go back; it's a one-way trip through puberty. Once you've gone through it, it's hard-wired.

Is your subject matter, and, indeed Claire, designed to shock?

GP: No, it's something that I imagine happens. It's not like I can make anyone be shocked, so how can it be the subject matter that's shocking? It's in the mind of the person. To Japanese people, pubic hair is shocking, that doesn't mean that pubic hair is necessarily shocking.

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Dodging the flak


In which case, how do you manage not to beaten around the head by The Sun who could easily take huge offence at your work.

GP: Don't speak too soon. I had a meeting with the press officer at The Tate. We went round the show and went through the worst-case scenarios because people are out there to be vindictive. The Turner Prize, in their eyes, is a bad thing: it's elitist, overpriced, so they're out to attack it, whatever.

They may find a way of giving me rough ride. I sort of say "bring it on" and see what happens, because I'm not doing anything illegal, I suppose (laughs). I'm a moralist. I see myself as a moral crusader, in a certain way. Any negativity is in their minds.

Presumably you haven't had any flak in that way?

GP: No, not in that way. I think I've risen without trace, to a certain extent, and because of the nature of the work - it's pottery - how can anyone be really offended?

In the past I've made more raw work that was more blatantly provocative and without so much of a social understanding of what I was doing. I think the fact that it was pottery diffused that.

Does the "pottery" side of it - the fact that it's craft and not got this elitist "art" thing about it - take the edge off it? It's not supposed to be serious, in a way.

GP: That fits nicely with my issue around domestic violence - it isn't taken seriously because it happens in the home. The whole paedophilia paranoia: thankfully, there are very rare cases of a stranger attacking a child. But that's given all the media attention because they're out THERE, whereas what's more common is what happens in the family unit because we're all in families.

That's one of the things I want to ram home again and again and again - people have got to look at themselves. You will not die if you look at yourself. But people keep these things in their heads, and that's where they fester.

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School's out


Art college: what is it good for? El frocked Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry has a word or six hundred to say on the subject. Trace Newton-Ingham listens in.

What kind of work were you doing at college? Has it changed massively?

GP: When I first went to Art College I had to get used to the fact that suddenly I was doing art full-time... that's quite a major change to come to terms with. It goes from being a hobby to being serious.

When I first started I was quite conventional, I could draw and paint and all that kind of thing, but I don't think I'd studied contemporary art much. So when I went to do a Foundation I had a go at everything. When I went to Degree College, to Portsmouth, they encouraged you to be interdisciplinary; so I did a bit of film-making, bit of print-making, bit of photography, bit of sculpture, did a bit of everything for the first year.

I think what I was doing was very much trying to please the tutors. I think that's a very common dynamic because at that age you're coming straight out of a family. And if you're perhaps coming from a background, like I did, where it wasn't all sweetness and light, you project a lot of positive stuff on the teachers.

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Impressions


So you were looking for acceptance?

GP: Totally. I think for the first year I treated it like a job. I went there 9-5; my job was to make art that I thought they would like. I often say to students, the skip behind an art college is the repository of the ugliest objects on earth.

And they're all made for the tutors?

GP: It's so true. There's nothing worse than a failed artwork. I made my fair share of them, especially in my 1st year at Art College. I mean, I can see the glimmers in them, but they weren't particularly anything to do with me.

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Too macho


Did you always set-out to be an artist?

GP: I'd never thought about being an artist until I was 16. I was going to join the army. I saw it as a secure option - being from a shaky background - and I also think it was a rebellion against my transvestite impulses. I think that's very common: a lot of transvestites join the army or go into very macho careers as it's a fear of what's bubbling up inside you. Thank God I didn't, that's all I can say.

My art teacher sort of said he could see my subconscious leaking out all over the place, and he could see that I had 'open-channels' if you like. He suggested the notion of going to art college.

The minute he suggested it I thought, "Ooh, I'll do that then". I was living on half a deck of emotions then - a very shut-down boy. I was very withdrawn and I think he spotted that I was the artist type - and he was right.

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Set on course


Then in my second year of college we had this great teacher called Darrell Viner, quite a well known artist who died a couple of years ago. He was a very intense person - like something out of a German expressionist film, a little hunched man with a little cigarette, very angular, looked like Patrick Troughton - but he was a really funny guy, really intense.

I think he was the first person I'd ever met who'd had therapy. He used to have a noose hanging in his studio. I don't think the two were necessarily connected though. I came up to the second year and he could see I was struggling. He said, "Why don't you just write a piece about yourself". I just wrote an essay, very free form, about myself, 10 pages, and I showed it to him. He said, "Now just go and do some work about that". And that basically set me on a course.

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Trip of a lifetime


So this was a 'Let Out All The Stops' essay?

GP: Yeah, and I did a piece called 'Transvestite Jet Pilots' which was a big assemblage piece, all about gender. There was a dressing table I bought at a junk shop. I carved it like an alter piece but it was also of an aircraft cockpit: there was a big parachute around it and it had artefacts that I'd made on the dressing table, and there were things in the drawers.

It was influenced by a lot of Feminist art that was going on in the 70's, and I was having an affair with one of the tutors who was a heavy duty feminist - my Germaine Greer moment.

That was probably the most important thing I made at college 'cos after that I went into what I call my Bilbo Baggins period. I took LSD quite a lot in my last year at college, and I don't think it was necessarily the most creative thing I've done. My work went a bit twee.

I did a lot of bronze casting and made things like crowns and helmets and it all got a bit 'Sword and Sorcery'. Actually, I still like some of the things I made then. I used to think of acid as being like someone had gone through the index file of my mind and had out-lined certain things in hi-lighter.

A certain aesthetic is very appealing to an acid-addled mind. You could see it in the art that came out of the period of the hippy 60's. I always remember what that guy from the Grateful Dead said when he was asked him if he still took acid. He said: "It's like going to Cleveland. You've been there 10 times, you don't need to go again".

That sums it up: I went there 10 times, I thought I don't need to go there again -so I never did. That certainly tainted the work I did for my degree show. I think the best thing I did was 'Transvestite Jet Pilots', which I did in my second year.

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Coming out


What happened after college?

GP: When I came out of college I was squatting, had zero money and no studio. I did a lot of sketch books and elaborate collage work.

Small scale stuff that you didn't need lots of equipment for, or lots of space?

GP: That's exactly right. I just had a table in my room and I used to buy lots of books at jumble sales and cut them up, and do drawings and stuff. And then I started doing little assemblages of junk I found. I did that for a couple of years and went to my first pottery class in September '83.

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Plugging away


Do you think art school nurtures creativity?

GP: Phew! That's a good question (laughs). Loaded one. Mmm, bloody hell. I was an external assessor for a course last year, but it all depends on the intake, of course.

I mean, yes, there are talented people and there's a lot of people who want to be artists. I think this kind of funding of colleges, per student head, is the death of the art college, I think. It just means, "You got a pulse? You're in".

Look at the amount of space they've got, access to facilities. It's not good. So I'd say, in answer to the question, art colleges nurture creativity less now than there used to be because there's not the time, space or the facilities. Probably not the exposure to external tutors - that's really important I think - having practicing artists in.

I get a kind of vibe that some students are drawn to it because they think they want to be artists. They want to be artists, they don't necessarily want to make art. I went into it 'cos I liked making art and always have done.

I think they've got to realise that 90% of the time I'm in the studio, under-heated, dirty, with the radio on, plugging away. After 25 years I now get a good social life out of it and a decent income. I'm lucky. Of the people in my year, I'm the only one I think who makes a decent living out of it. So don't go into the art world to make money.

Maybe the whole Britart thing has fostered that, artists as pop stars?

GP: Yeah, and coolness as well. Coolness is a terrible tragedy in the art world. People think there is a right way to be an artist - the right way to be an artist is to be yourself.

I've done some pretty naff things over the years, in the name of my work and it paid off. Students say I'm a good example of that. I didn't think what I was doing would ever be fashionable. It's like the art world has come round to me, I haven't changed to fit the art world. I've been plugging away pretty much in the same vein for 20 years. I've just refined it.
The Interview appears courtesy of the Ideas Factory

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