Thursday, 1 December 2011

Grayson Perry exhibition: the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Notes taken during my visit to the exhibition: names of pieces, and direct quotations from GP, are in italics

Sometimes our very human desire for meaning can get in the way of having a good experience of the world

Ceramic works that appear to be metallic, or made of wood

Examples of one culture's early and uninformed view of people from another culture: eg white settlers by native Americans

The Rosetta vase

Hold your beliefs lightly

Quote from Beuys: In places like universities, where everyone speaks so rationally, it is necessary for a kind of 'enchanter' to appear

Like a world war 2 mine washed up on the beach encrusted with the boiled down essence of empire in the form of tourist tat

The map of truths and beliefs

Maps of imaginary lands: perhaps someone today should devise a satnav app for moral guidance

An accompanying display of badges excavated in Bosch's home town showed that much of the surreal iconography in his paintings derived from the popular imagery of the day

Grumpy old god: Alan Measles is unimpressed with the 21st century. He sees the facebook generation distracted by their smartphones and obsessed with celebrity. The multimedia collage of modern life makes it hard for an upcoming god to establish himself without a web presence

Gateway guardian figures, often scary


Herms were also sited outside houses for good luck where the genitalia would be anointed or rubbed by passers by

Wear, damage, dirt, repair, corrosion and decay are a large part of the language of authenticity

Billy and Charlies: I love fakes for they make us think about what it is we see in the authentic

Roman cameo fragments

Ralph Simpson and Ralph Toft earthenware plates, late 1600s: graphic boldness and relaxed fluency.

Craftsmanship is often equated with precision, but I think there is more to it. I feel it is more important to have a long and sympathetic hands-on relationship with materials. A relaxed, humble, ever-curious love of stuff is central to my idea of being an celebrating craftsmanship I also celebrate artists, well most of them.

Model boat with skeletons, Mexico, 1980s

The tomb of the unknown craftsman: it takes the form of an iron ship sailing into the afterlife. In the central reliquary is an example of the original tool which begat all tools, a flint hand axe 250000 years old.

Added much later: here's a link to the notes from my second visit to this exhibition:


  1. I am a PGCE student at the Institute of Education and have a blogging task, I am on this page as Derrick Jay my tutor wrote an artical in his blog about the Grayson Perry exhibition. I am a Fine art teacher.

    I am a fine artist who feels that craftsmanship had lost its way within Fine Art during the 1990's with conceptual rationalisation dominating and taking a president. It’s nice to see that Perry is celebrating craft that has been lost in time and space, the idea that you can find lost objects that you identify with and exhibit alongside your own feels a bit hypocritical, he is celebrating it then exhibiting it as his own, claiming ownership over the lost object.
    The fact he creates his own craft alongside lost craft objects redeems this idea into a great exhibition

  2. Thanks for this Matthew. If you haven't been to the exhibition, there's still a few weeks left to see it. I've actually been twice, and I'm about to post my random notes from my second trip as a sort of sequel to this blog entry.

    Go and see it if you haven't!