#Lamentation 2012 Greyson Perry
"The Dead Christ… "Andrea Della Robbia V&A
I had the opportunity to see Grayson Perry's take over of the British Museum during The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman in December where the tapestry and fabric works included seemed to be imbued with the palpable excitement of virgin territory (no pun intended), so I really wanted to get to Perry's exhibition of tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences at Victoria Miro Gallery this summer. Of course it came down to seeing it on the last day but my guru Rod Jellicoe had highly recommended I make the effort and I was glad I did. The venue allowed for the work to be seen both intimately and expansively in lot of natural light which is not what you typically encounter with fabric exhibitions so that in itself lent an irreverence to these charged works.
I feel a certain simpatico with how Perry translates the past into narratives of the modern human condition. Our works were both acquired in 2003 by the Contemporary Art Society of London for the Potteries Museum at Stoke on Trent when consulting curator Andrew Watts was building up the collection with contemporary clay artists that reference Staffordshire pottery traditions. Perry's and my relationship to British ceramic history are very different but our conceptual paths do 'cross' now and then- though you'll rarely catch me in a dress!
The Lamentation is a subject well represented in the V&A collections in numerous mediums and periods. The piece above is a renaissance terracotta example I had the great honor of passing every morning on my way in and when leaving late at night. The museum was often most compelling when dark and empty, and though this work was not directly in my path it always managed to capture my attention for at least a moment sometimes longer. As an artist who has worked a lot with 18th-century material I'm aware of scenes from the life of Christ serving as compositional tinplates for satirists of the period, a nice double edge to Perry's sword- or knitting needle- as he weaves in William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress to set up the loaded circumstance of his 21st century commentaries.
Strangely prior to my coming to London I had been developing a political work referencing a pretty brutal satirical engraving by Paul Revere entitled The Able Doctor or America Drinking the Bitter Draught. When I first discovered this work something about the composition was familiar and I realized it was the Lamentation- in place of The Dead Christ is a 'Native America' being held down and orally sodomized with a teapot - a vessel that Rob Hunter brilliantly incorporates in his lecture on 18th-century rituals as being clearly symbolic of male sexual aggression. With the political climate here, the rise of the so called Tea Party and it's overt agenda on women's reproductive rights 'dominating' Republican policy and rhetoric, this image could not be more relevant to 21st-century American Politics. A disturbing revelation in itself - I'm definitely not done with this one yet.
During the Bush administration I created 2 works protesting the Iraq war one in 2003 Liberty on Leave and one in 2008 Paradise Lost. Both pieces reference the allegorical depictions of Fecundity by Bernard Palissy. I came to know these works through trying to recreate the subsequent versions produced in the 17th-century by London delft potteries. The imagery translated into clay by Palissy correlates strongly to this mid-16th-century painting from Fontainebleau depicting the Birth of Cupid. This painting reflects the flourishing paganism at Fontainebleau almost at odds with the religious symbolism that dominates renaissance art and turning the idea of the virgin mother on it's head.
|The Birth of Cupid Master of Flora ( Italian, Fontainebleau 2nd half of the 16th century|
|Fecundity dish Bernard Palissy or Palissy School on view in the V&A ceramics galleries.|
|Paradise Lost 2008 currently in COVET Ferrin Gallery|
This is where I meet Joe... To be Continued…