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features /  interview
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mr perry, 2005 (detail)
grayson perry exhibition tour
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Victoriana with a twist.

Grayson Perry has become very popular with a non-art world audience. Thereís something very accessible and rather British about his pots, his transvestism, his easy eloquence. The loose narrative imagery he covers his ceramics and bronzes in even appeals to children and old people; itís simple and figurative enough for people to get. Yet at the same time, without the charming Perry waxing lyrical about his inspirations, the work can seem rather dull.

Quotes from the Internet, 2005 & Untitled, 2005 (both detail).

This exhibition, however, is an interesting departure. Perry was originally commissioned by The Collection in Lincolnshire to curate unseen objects in its storerooms and create a series of artworks that sat alongside them. What makes the show interesting is the decision to take these Victorian bits and bobs and placing them in a small commercial space. It just feels surprising.

The antique objects that Perry chooses to display around the gallery like precious artefacts are the real winners in the show. There are animal traps that resemble sculptural torture instruments; an empty Victorian wooden hearse, unpainted and dark black with age; sepia photographs of hardened farmers; old tapestries, dolls and coffin decorations.

Nokia, 2005 & The Charms of Lincolnshire, 2006 (both detail).

Perry throws in his own work in between. There is his own postmodern embroidered sampler, a bronze abstract sign, faux Victorian photos, a series of large ceramic plates and a few large, lit pots that play with Victorian-inspired themes. His best piece is one of the oldest - a strange little handmade hut with chickenís feet, illustrating the Russian folk-tale witchís nest, Baba Yaga. Much of the show has that sense of the gothic.

Perry, like many of the current crop of mid-life artists, has been accused of trying to find a new gimmick to sell his work. But somehow it feels more organic and genuine than that. Even if his work itself doesnít excite you, heís got a great eye for the strange minutiae of past lives.

Francesca Gavin 13 July 06
Grayson Perry: The Charms Of Lincolnshire is at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London, until 12 Aug 06.
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