On not joining the army

In the Saturday Paper today, the artist Grayson Perry is interviewed by Miriam Cosic.


At school, he was in cadets and planning to apply for Sandhurst military college. This is hard to get one’s head round. Grayson Perry as a professional soldier? However. His art teacher took him aside. ‘I think you’d do well at art school.’ Sounds like Perry, and the army, had a narrow escape.

Later on, he was sharing a squat with sisters Jennifer and Christine Binnie, ‘founders of the Neo Naturist art group’. No, I don’t know what a Neo Naturist is, or was. Christine was a trained potter and dragged him along to an evening class. ‘Come on, it’s cheap, the teachers are okay, it’s really close…’ So he went. At the time he was into drawing and collage, but pottery was something else. ‘I liked the idea of making an object that used my skills. And then I’d have an object and I could sell it; it would be a saleable thing. Christmas was coming!’ Once he’d found pottery, he worked very hard for a long time, developing those skills.


Chance, luck, serendipity, an innate sense of direction that says YES when some opportunity presents itself… But my god, if you really knew how random life can be, you’d never get out of bed. Does Grayson Perry ever look back wistfully at his soldier self that never quite made it into the real world?* Does he imagine another existence as a quietly eccentric printmaker not quite making ends meet in a damp Suffolk cottage, appreciated only by a small group of fellow artists, unable to get the roof repaired until he has a reasonably successful exhibition in a local gallery?


  • * Yes. A few years ago Perry had an exhibition at the British Museum, which he called ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’. And by the way, there should be captions to the not very good photos above. (1) Fridge magnet by Perry, ‘Humility’ motorbike. (2) La Tour de Claire by Perry (flint, wood, found objects, 1983). (3) The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman by Perry (cast iron, oil paint, glass, rope, wood, flint hand axe, 2011). And when I have worked out how to add captions and footnotes to this blog, and also how to take better photos of images in books, I will improve the appearance of this post.  I might also add an image of one of his ceramic works. I thought the Tomb was partly earthenware, but it isn’t.

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