Grayson Perry (born in 1960) is an English artist, known mainly for his ceramic vases and cross-dressing. He works in several media. Perry’s vases have classical forms and are decorated in bright colours, depicting subjects at odds with their attractive appearance, e.g. child abuse and sado-masochism. There is a strong autobiographical element in his work, in which images of Perry as “Claire”, his female alter-ego, often appear. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003 for his ceramics, receiving the prize dressed as Claire.
Perry’s work refers to several ceramic traditions, including Greek pottery and folk art. He has said, “I like the whole iconography of pottery. It hasn’t got any big pretensions to being great public works of art, and no matter how brash a statement I make, on a pot it will always have certain humility… For me the shape has to be classical invisible: then you’ve got a base that people can understand”. His vessels are made by coiling, a traditional method. Most have a complex surface employing many techniques, including “glazing, incision, embossing, and the use of photographic transfers”, which requires several firings. To some he adds sprigs, little relief sculptures stuck to the surface. The high degree of skill required by his ceramics and their complexity distances them from craft pottery. It has been said that these methods are not used for decorative effect but to give meaning. Perry challenges the idea, implicit in the craft tradition, that pottery is merely decorative or utilitarian and cannot express ideas.
Vivika and Otto Heino collaborated from 1950 until 1995, the year of Vivika’s death. Their work is distinguished by its clean lines and distinctive glazes. Despite getting under way during the Depression, the Heinos supported themselves as potters throughout their careers. Their world was guided by a strong work ethic and a love of clay. Unfazed by ceramic trends, they remained true to their sense of what pottery should be—traditional and utilitarian.
Otto and Vivika were part of a generation that sought to redefine the art of ceramics in relation to modern art and culture. The “potters,” as the Heinos and their contemporaries were proud to be called, were influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, Germany’s Bauhaus, and the potters of Japan.
Otto and Vivika’s work is collected world-wide and has been exhibited internationally at the Picasso Museum in Vallauris, France; San Francisco’s De Young Museum; Los Angeles’ County Art Museum and Craft Folk Art Museum; New York’ American Craft Museum; Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian’ and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Twentieth Century Fox commissioned them to create 751 pieces of pottery for the film, “The Egyptian.”
The passionate and powerful figurative sculpture of the late Georges Jeanclos evokes emotion through a mastery of materials. Anguished and full of pathos, the works have an immediate and provocative poignancy. Their faces and postures show an extraordinary sense of tragic human experience; yet retain a tender beauty by the deft use of the sculptor’s chosen medium, a thin gray terra cotta.
Georges Jeanclos once said that the largest influences on his work were World War II, his apprenticeship to a sculptor, and his discovery of Etruscan art. There were tragedies in the artist’s biography that also had effect on the work. Central among those was his experience of hiding with his Jewish family during the Nazi occupation. During 1943, when he was 10 years old, his family fled the village where they had been hiding and lived in the forest near Vichy for a year to escape the Gestapo.
Jeanclos was often quoted regarding the use of the medium; for him the undecorated gray terra cotta was ideal for expressing the fragility of life. The thin clay shrouds the body and often carries fragments of words from the Psalms, the Song of Songs, or the Kaddish.