A stroll through Grayson Perry’s My Pretty Little Art Career exhibit is sure to leave a lasting impression on even the most liberal-minded art lover. The controversial British artist, who describes himself as a transvestite potter, claims during a video interview at the exhibition that provocation in art is as necessary as salt on a potato – and on the provocation part, he doesn’t hold back.

The show contains an extensive portfolio of Perry’s work. His original ‘canvas’ of ceramic pots (cheap to produce and non-intrusive to the narrative) expands to highly detailed drawings and tapestries, rusty metal sculptures and exquisite costumes. One baby-doll styled satin outfit is the ‘coming out’ dress of his feminine alter ego Claire. Inspect carefully and more detail is revealed; the cherry motifs on the fabric are in fact male anatomy, a reminder that to fully appreciate Perry’s work, it is vital to pay close attention. Each piece tells an intricate story, layer over layer of caricatures and text with themes of love, lust, transvestism and abandonment. He takes aim with cheeky venom at British elitism, the Royal Family, social strata, politics and the art establishment.

Interactive multi-media components invite the viewer to linger and explore as Perry explains his motivation, his difficult childhood and the lure to cross-dressing at a young age. He introduces his special friend, Alan Measles, a stuffed teddy bear who once kept him company and now features in many of his works.

The exhibition is in its final weeks and whilst it may need a PG rating for the bawdy themes and images, the intent behind Grayson Perry’s art is crystal clear, as are his views on a range of contemporary issues. Visitors to My Pretty Little Art Career will certainly have plenty of conversation cards for the post show discussion.

 

Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Review by Jane O’Connell, 16th April 2016