10.00 to 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays
Grayson Perry: This is Sausage of 2006. For me, the headline is about maleness.
Richard Slee: You’ve hit it right on the …
GP: Right on the head.
RS: The nail on the head, nail on the sausage. Yes, yes, it’s a parody of male DIY, it’s obviously a phallic sausage.
GP: Your forthcoming show at the V&A is called …
RS: From Utility to Futility.
GP: Yes, so the word utility, what comes up for me, is Susan Faludi’s definition of my father’s generation which were called utility man. They were the men that could do anything and mend anything.
RS: Yes, yes, yes. Well, my father couldn’t do any of those. He was absolutely hopeless. It’s partly my fascination with tools because I didn’t grow up with any, because there weren’t any around.
GP: They were exotic?
RS: I suppose so.
GP: My father was totally that sort of man, he could mend anything. For me, there’s a real poignancy in this piece, there’s all sorts of things I’m getting. Is it about Gulliver?
RS: Yes. I read an article once about … around this time, about DIY and there was a survey and it said that women had overtaken men in purchasing DIY goods.
RS: So this is the death of the male maker.
GP: He’s tied down there on the operating table. Of course it’s very fragile.
RS: Yes, yes. That’s a theme I’ve worked with, the fragility or the breakability of ceramics. There’s a nice kind of permanence about it, but there’s also a fragility about it.
GP: That leads me on to thinking about your relationship with the traditional craft world which ceramics is part of and the fact that the minute you take that into the art world … You’re increasingly exhibiting and positioning yourself, if I’m right in saying this, towards the contemporary art world, and yet you continue to work in ceramics. Why do you continue to work in ceramics?
RS: Simply because I’m good at it.
GP: That’s a good answer, I can understand that, because once you become good at something it’s …
RS: … I have tried to work with other materials but I haven’t really found anything that’s supersedes it. It’s cheap, as I said, I’m good at it, I do like the surfaces, I obviously revel … this thing is really nice and shiny. Shiny is good.
GP: What proportion of your time on a piece like this would you put into getting the finish right?
RS: This would be probably about fifty percent of the time. In making terms, it’s quite simply made, it’s not complex. The actual glazing and firing of it would take quite some time, as a length of time because it would be fired maybe seven or eight times.
RS: Yes, to get the right … It looks as if it’s got, well it does have one colour on it, but the way that you get the shininess, it’s got a white glaze and then it’s a clear glaze over the top.
GP: It’s like a petrol tank on a motorbike or something?
RS: Yes, yes, yes. It’s very much like a car finish, fetish finish.
GP: Yes, shininess is said to be one of the qualities of beauty. It’s one of the things that lends …
RS: It’s sexy as well.
GP: Yes. Why do you think we as humans are so attracted to shiny things?
RS: I suppose it’s about newness, it’s something that’s fresh, as I say, it’s sexy, I think it’s mainly about sex.
GP: I thought it was also about movement, in that when we look at something that’s got a reflective surface on it, it moves, it dances and our eyes are attuned to movement very much as well.
RS: Yes, yes.
GP: I know that if I do pieces that have shiny sections and matt sections, there’s a way they interplay.
RS: Yes, I have been working with that idea, as you walk past a piece the shine changes, the reflections change. I’ve made a piece for the new show which capitalises on that.
GP: For me, as a forty-something male, the Black and Decker workmate and those bungee elastics, they are very loaded items of nostalgia, to a certain extent.
RS: Yes, yes. It’s very much like a Homemaker, you’re right, they’re old-fashioned objects …
GP: The guy who owned those things had cycle clips, he cycled to work with cycle clips, I always think.
RS: Yes, yes.
GP: Why white?
RS: I suppose … Why white? Have to make this up.
GP: Yes, but you made a decision. When you were choosing a colour …
RS: No. I didn’t want it to be realistic. Maybe I was thinking of white sausages, you do get white sausages.
GP: Yes, yes.
RS: It’s also the white male.
RS: So to make it another colour might …
GP: And it looks nice on the bench.
GP: That’s not a trivial concern, is it, as an artist?
RS: No, no, no.
GP: Do you think it’s also, as you get older, is there an element of this piece about aging do you think, because of that nostalgia element?
RS: Yes, yes … I suppose it’s about aging … What I’m quite interested in the older I get the more invisible one gets, and that’s quite interesting. It seemed to fit in with the demise of the DIY, of making.
GP: But it’s also about the death perhaps in our twenty-first century … young people do not have the same relationship with objects per se. Craft is changing.
RS: Yes, yes. They don’t have the same interest in the material, or experience of materials. Most things are there, are bought, consumed, they’re consumerist-type objects. Whereas I remember in my childhood, although I didn’t make things I imagined things as other things. It’s like the twig becomes the aeroplane.
RS: I think that kind of imagination is sometimes in jeopardy.