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Open Art 2010 - East Dean & Friston, East Sussex

I Believe in Art - an illustrated talk by Grayson Perry
7th August 2010

I attended this talk and thought I would record my impressions of the artist. He is known for his ceramic vases with their conventional and unconventional imagery; he won the Turner Prize in 2003 and was pictured accepting the Award wearing a baby-doll dress and red shoes, as his alter-ego Claire.

Do you remember the famous little black and white film where the train appears to go from London to Brighton in 4 minutes? Well, after the introductions, Grayson simply said that to get some idea of how he makes a pot, he had been filmed daily over 6 months. This had been compressed so it was a 5 minute film and fast!

That set the scene for his talk about his work, his life, his inspiration, his attitude to religions, being a transvestite (a tranny) and what he is working on currently.

He talked to us and showed pictures to illustrate everything. He was articulate, amusing, personable, sometimes self-deprecating, inspiring, matter-of-fact, extremely well organised and methodical, with some unusual outlooks on life as he sees it. He also mentioned that dressing as Claire for the Turner Prize Award did him no harm, as his style of dressing made him noticed many years ago amongst a crowd of other artists hoping for success.

He is married, with a young daughter, lives/works in London, but spends time at his home in East Sussex, and makes beautiful pots (700 so far) with sometimes disturbing images, but also very witty comments. He adores his childhood teddy bear (Alan Measles), finds him inspiring and god-like, and features him in several works (including the handbag Grayson was carrying last night). His latest completed project is an amazing motor bike (a treat for himself), as he has always had a motor bike and mountain bike for exercise and fun, and this new one is devoted to Alan Measles. Grayson is planning to drive this machine to Bavaria soon, with Alan Measles in his glass case on the back of the bike, and said the bike was a b....r to drive but he designed it and loved it - and it cost a fortune to have made by a big chap in Brighton. I do hope a picture of it will get into the daily papers, as it's clever, with amusing details.

Grayson Perry is the subject of a newly published and lavishly illustrated book by Jacky Klein, published by Thames & Hudson, and so after a book signing session I asked if I might take a few photographs. He chatted with several of us, and I asked about his dress. He had designed it but his students made it up for him. The pleasant lady I was sitting next to wondered about his shoes, but as she was unable to walk far without a stick, I asked Grayson if he would possibly do me a favour and come and show his wonderful shoes to my new friend. He did so happily and they discussed shoes for some time, and then music with her husband.

We thanked him, as did lots of others, and off he went into the night.

I felt so lucky to be able to get a last-minute seat in that packed hall. Someone suggested he was a genius, and I'm not sure about that, but he is certainly clever, talented and focused on what he does and applies himself to the work in hand.

What a treat to attend the lecture and learn more about this artist and his craft.

Just as a postscript to this, I would like to mention that last night I was talking to my son-in-law about Grayson Perry's motor bike. To my astonishment, Simon told me that he had been driving that afternoon from Lewes, East Sussex, to Heathfield, when he saw this large and colourful motor bike coming along the road towards him. From his description it can only have been Grayson Perry, heading from Ringmer towards 'Earwig Corner'. What a coincidence!