[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 22:55 GMT
Ask this year's Turner Prize winner
Grayson Perry



  • Transcript


    Ceramic artist Grayson Perry, a happily-married transvestite who depicts child abuse and death in his art, has won this year's Turner Prize.

    Also nominated were brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman, two of the UK's most controversial modern artists, Irish video artist and photographer Willie Doherty and sculptor Anya Gallaccio.

    Now in its 20th year, the 20,000 Turner Prize - often criticised for being sensationalist or just poor quality - remains the UK's most talked-about art award.

    Last year, culture minister Kim Howells described the nominated artworks as "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit".

    You put your questions to Grayson Perry in an interactive forum on Monday 8th December.



    Transcript


    Razia Iqbal:

    Hello and welcome to this interactive forum, I'm Razia Iqbal. The winner of this year's Turner Prize is the potter, Grayson Perry. He's caused controversy by depicting scenes of death and child abuse in his work. One of vases, "We've Found the Body of your Child", shows a baby lying helpless on the ground while its mother is apparently restrained by a gang.

    Grayson accepted the Turner Prize on Sunday night as his alter-ego, Claire, dressed in a purple dress with large bows and said he was stunned. I'm delighted to say Grayson Perry joins me now to answer some of your questions about his work and his life. Grayson Perry welcome and congratulations. You must be very pleased.


    Grayson Perry:

    Very, very pleased yes.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Less stunned now?


    Grayson Perry:

    Yes, it's going in gradually but it's a weird day.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Yes, I'm sure - a frenzied round of interviews. Grayson let me start by asking you a question that was sent in by Ophelia in England. She says: What has caused you to focus on the subject of death and child abuse?


    Grayson Perry:

    I think it's more like what's caused the media to pick those words out because I don't particularly focus on those. It's like Chinese whispers. I think there was one interview 10 years ago and then all journalists somehow refer to it and it becomes in the ether. My work is about many subjects. Childhood is something I'm interested in - innocence and the family and the way we bring up our children. Child abuse itself - I don't depict child abuse. I make works about the way we think about children and about the way the media deals with children.

    The pot you referred to the introduction - "We've Found the Body of your Child" - is actually about the fact that most children that are murdered are murdered by the parents - 95%. I think it's about once a week a child dies at the hands of its parents and I want people to look into themselves really. So on the pot there are phrases like - "it didn't do me any harm" or "you'll spoil him" - which are the kind of things we all say to our children and they're like the first step of the way we don't take children seriously. I think they're the seeds of an attitude that can result in violence towards children.


    Razia Iqbal:

    What is it about children though that you are particularly interested in? We've got another question here from Sarah in England who says: Your pots often depict the misery of childhood. Is this a reflection on your own experience as a child?


    Grayson Perry:

    Yes, I didn't have a particularly happy childhood. I wasn't that aware it because I think when we're children we only know the childhood we have. Children are very resilient so they adapt to the normality that they are offered.

    Children are great survivors and so we have coping mechanisms and my coping mechanism was to construct a fantasy world and to put certain aspects of myself on the back-burner for later because they weren't acceptable within the environment I was living in at the time and so I put portions of my personality, if you like, to one side. I did this subconsciously but I think that's a mechanism that many children use to survive.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Like what - give us an example? What kinds of things happened to you as a child that you didn't deal with?


    Grayson Perry:

    I think I was a very sensitive plant as a child - I think most artists probably are. I think our personality is the result of how our nature is acted upon by nurture - it's a mixture of the two things. I was a very sensitive child and so certain qualities that would be traditionally seen as feminine - like vulnerability, sensitivity, preciousness - they were things that I felt I couldn't have appreciated in my family. I was very wary and felt I had to be tough I suppose because the boys' role in the family is much more heavily policed than the girls' role. Girls nowadays - and rightly so - can be tomboys, they can be achievers, they can be career girls and that's fantastic. But boys, a lot of parents would freak-out if they thought they had a "sissy" on their hands. It's still quite a taboo area, I think. Yes, there are some people who accept that - I'm generalising. As a child I put those feminine qualities in a box and put them away for later.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Now you were a teenager when you first started experimenting with cross-dressing. How did that go down in your family?


    Grayson Perry:

    Well they didn't know - I did it in secret at first and then it came out when I was about 15 year-old and it went down very, very badly.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Let me give another question, this one is from Andrew Wills, England who says: What message do you intend to convey by a) your work b) your dress sense? Do you think there is any link between the two?


    Grayson Perry:

    I don't set out to convey a message. I make the work - I'm thinking of certain things and I'm emotionally charged by certain things and I'm influenced by certain things when I make a make a work - I put it into my work. I don't have a way that people have to look at it. Obviously certain things I put in, I can assume that a majority of people will read a work in a certain way but I don't tell people how to read it. With my dressing, I do it because I enjoy it. I haven't got an agenda with dressing - I do it because I like it.


    Razia Iqbal:

    But that's certainly what people pick up on. Peter, UK says: Do you think the Turner Prize is about provoking a response from people or is it to do with art?


    Grayson Perry:

    Well it's a contemporary art exhibition for sure.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Your exhibit was the most popular. When you looked at the comment board as you leave Tate Britain, the majority of people did say Grayson Perry's pots were fantastic - compared with say, some of the other artists who were seen to be the favourites such as Jake and Dinos Chapman. Did it surprise you that you had that kind of response from the general public?


    Grayson Perry:

    I've always had a good response. But the Turner Prize concentrates the thing and brings it to a much wider audience in a very concentrated burst. So yes, it's very gratifying to be the "people's princess" and to get such a warm reception. Wherever I go, I've always given talks and lectures to students and the public and I always get a warm reception because I'm talking about human issues. I'm very open and I think people mirror each other's behaviour. So if I am open and honest and I try to be warm, then I get that back and I think that's a lesson, I hope, for everybody.


    Razia Iqbal:

    What about what you said when you accepted your award - that it was a bigger deal that you were a potter than a transvestite?


    Grayson Perry:

    I was being a bit mischievous there really because the art world is very welcoming of challenge. That's one of the great things about the art world - it loves to be challenged. All of the art world is waiting and saying - please shock us, please make us uncomfortable because it wants that interest and excitement. And part of an artist's job is to offer new challenges to the art world.

    I suppose I see pottery as some sort of pretentious next-door-neighbours of art. The art world, I always felt, slightly looked down on the crafts and so it was beyond the pale, if you like, that pottery should dare crash the party.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Chloe Brown, Wales who says: Do you think ceramics will now start to be taken more seriously by the art world?


    Grayson Perry:

    No because I always say the art world hasn't necessarily accepted ceramics though it has accepted Grayson Perry.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Marcus Holmes, Finland: Do you think you have opened the door to a wider acceptance of ceramics?

    You clearly don't think so. Are you aware of a similar achievement in Finland by a Young Artist of the Year, called Kim Simonsson?


    Grayson Perry:

    No I am not aware of that, no.


    Razia Iqbal:

    That is interesting that you don't actually think it will make a change because people did talk about this in the context of Chris Ofili winning and it was a change of direction for painting.


    Grayson Perry:

    Painting has got a huge weight of art history - relatively recent art history - pottery has got a much longer tradition than painting. He might have encouraged dealers to see - but then again painting is a lovely commodity. The art world is also a commercial world and paintings are easy to sell because everybody understands them to a certain extent. So that's part of the success of painting, I think.


    Razia Iqbal:

    We've had a question from Brian Penny, UK asks: Can you possibly justify to me how you actually contribute in a worthwhile way to the furtherance of society?


    Grayson Perry:

    I don't set out to contribute in a worthwhile way to society - he's putting that onto me. I set out to make my work and have a nice time and if somebody buys it then great.


    Razia Iqbal:

    You don't think that artists have any particular responsibility?


    Grayson Perry:

    God, no.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Not even when you're choosing subject matters that you've decided to go for which are socially germane?


    Grayson Perry:

    My work is very moral but that's my choice. I don't think artists in general have a duty - the artist's only duty is to do what they want. I think an artist's job is to somehow be a cutting edge human.


    Razia Iqbal:

    You talked about the whole issue about the way in which you dress and how that connected to your art. We've got a question from Kevski, Scotland who says: Why did you become a transvestite? Is it a fetish? Or an expression of your art? Or is it political?


    Grayson Perry:

    Oh, it's a fetish - it's a turn-on - it's nothing to do with art. I started putting on women's clothes before I even knew other transvestites existed or certainly the art world existed. So no, it was an impulse, an erotic impulse.


    Razia Iqbal:

    And you think that erotic impulse informs your work?


    Grayson Perry:

    Yes.


    Razia Iqbal:

    We have a question here from Dario Glazebrook, England: What does your daughter think of your art work?

    How old is she?
    Grayson Perry:

    Eleven years-old.


    Razia Iqbal:

    What does she think?


    Grayson Perry:

    She's my biggest fan - she's so proud. She burst into tears last night when I won.


    Razia Iqbal:

    You play lots games in your work as well. There's an in-joke where there's a teddy bear hanging off a tree on one of your pots.


    Grayson Perry:

    That is complete coincidence.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Let me just explain to people - some people have read that as a connection with the Jake and Dinos work.


    Grayson Perry:

    They made that work well after I made that pot. So they were copying me in fact.


    Razia Iqbal:

    What about those rude comments - what you do with your pots, it's almost as though you use shock tactics. They're beautiful the pots, absolutely stunning and would sit very happily in a stately home for instance and you go up close and you see these images and all of a sudden you're confronted with "f-off you middle-class tourist". Is that something that you consciously wanted to do? It's almost like guerrilla tactics.


    Grayson Perry:

    Well that particular pot is called "Weeds, I've just planted in the wrong place". So it's about working-class people being at ease with their bodies and being at ease with creativity and being a bit more emotionally in contact. There's a kind of assumption that artists are these bohemian animals that polite people look at and say, look at them, look at the mess they're making, isn't it gorgeous. And that was what that work was playing with - that idea that artists are seen as these rough beasts that do the kind of dirty work and everybody is the audience.


    Razia Iqbal:

    Let's go back to the pottery. We've got a question from Neil, Wales who says: Have you got any tips for someone who'd like to get into pottery?


    Grayson Perry:

    I'm not a potter. I got into art - I went to art college and I got into art. I've always been an artist who just happens to make pottery, so I'm not a standard bearer for ceramics - I'm an artist. He's immediately excluding himself by saying he wants to be a potter. It's like saying I want to be a taxidermist, oh and by the way Damien can you help me get a show with Charles Saatchi.


    Razia Iqbal:

    We've got an e-mail from the United States, Ksenia Kolesnikov, who says: I was wondering if you plan on exhibiting in New York any time soon? I would love to see some of your work displayed here.

    Have you been shown in New York?


    Grayson Perry:

    I did show there about 12 years ago. I think it will come around. But one of my main problems is that because I make all my work myself, I don't make that much work and being quite small to fill a gallery - like the Turner Prize is a year's work. So eventually I'll get round to exhibiting in New York.


    Razia Iqbal:

    As you're getting used to winning, do you think you know what you might do with the money because we've had a question from David Water, UK who asks: Any thoughts as to what do with the 20,000 prize money?


    Grayson Perry:

    I'll give it to my wife!


    Razia Iqbal:

    Well of course you'll probably be making quite a bit more and your vases are going to be worth be worth a lot more than the 25,000 they fetch now.


    Grayson Perry:

    Yes, the 20,000 - it's nice but it's not a life-changing amount of money for me.


    Razia Iqbal:

    That's all we've got time for. Thank you very much indeed Grayson Perry for joining us.




  • SEE ALSO:
    Transvestite potter wins Turner
    07 Dec 03  |  Entertainment


    RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


    PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
    UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
    Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific