Fantasy land

When starting work on ‘Print for a Politician’ in 2005, Grayson Perry had ‘…a fantasy of the print hanging on the wall of a politician’s office’. In November 2009 this became reality when he saw his work displayed in the office of the Arts Minister, Margaret Hodge in our Department, DCMS. For this podcast he dressed as Claire, his famous alter ego, in a splendid appliquéd coat and striking shoes, Grayson answered questions about the context for his print, speaking engagingly about the ideas behind the work, most notably that this print is about a contemplative call for a balanced view of the world..

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At two-and-a-half metres long, ‘Print for a Politician’ is an unusually large etching. Here Grayson Perry has adopted a scroll format, similar to a traditional Chinese painting, the story literally unfolding before our eyes. The print resembles an antique map and close inspection suggests an imaginary land populated by forests, rocky outcrops and twisted spires, divided into zones by some firm boundaries. Tiny spidery handwriting reveals various labelled groups of people within these zones, representing a broad cross-section of our society ­ ‘agnostics’, ‘provincials’, ‘homosexuals’, ‘scientologists’ ­ to name just a few.

Perry has said that he is interested in the superficial labels that the media and people in general use to describe social groups. At first sight it would appear that these groups of people are living in a war zone in which they are pitted against each other on the basis of their particular prejudices and/or ideology. But while Perry wants to highlight the artificial nature of such labels, he is equally adamant that he does not want people to read too much significance into where he has placed certain groups, as there is no hidden agenda as such.  As Perry has commented, ‘my work has always had a guerilla tactic, a stealth tactic. I want to make something that lives with the eye as a beautiful piece of art, but on closer inspection, a polemic or ideology will come out of it’.

‘Print for a Politician’ is a modern take on political satire and was in part inspired by the Mappa Mundi, a medieval map hanging in Hereford Cathedral which reveals how 13th-century scholars interpreted the world in spiritual and geographical terms.

Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford, Essex. His parents separated when Perry was a young boy and he feels that his interest in both transvestism and ceramics dates from this point. He completed a foundation course at Braintree College of Further Education, followed by a BA in Fine Art at Portsmouth Polytechnic. He moved to London in the early 1980s where he took part in film and performance with the Neo-Naturists group. Perry has had numerous solo and group exhibitions and won the Turner Prize in 2003 for his ceramic work. He famously collected the award dressed as Claire.