Celebrating Contemporary: Grayson Perry's The Chelmsford Sissies

  • 12 September 2011

Today our Celebrating Contemporary season looks The Chelmsford Sissies by postmodern potter Grayson Perry...

Grayson Perry, The Chelmsford Sissies, 2003 © Grayson Perry courtesy of the artist and the Victoria Miro gallery

Grayson Perry, The Chelmsford Sissies, 2003

Today our Celebrating Contemporary season looks The Chelmsford Sissies by postmodern potter Grayson Perry.

The work

This pot was inspired by the real-life story of the Chelmsford Sissies, a band of Royalists led by Sir Thomas Sissye who were made to parade through the streets in women's clothes after surrendering to the Roundheads.

It shows an alternative history in which Chelmsford embraced the Sissies' cross-dressing, depicting a fictional transvestite festival and its impact on the town (a transfer on the pot describes expanding housing estates). The Chelmsford Sissies was bought for Chelmsford Museum in 2004 with the help of the Art Fund.

The artist

Describing himself as a 'transvestite potter from Essex', Grayson Perry fuses traditional ceramics with elaborate decoration. His work unsettles established ideas of fine art by reclaiming the 'second-rate' medium of pottery.

Perry's work is often autobiographical, and frequently features two characters of his own creation: Clair, his transvestite alter ego, and Alan Measles, his childhood teddy bear and 'surrogate father'. His decoration of his ceramics is often ideological or polemical, featuring narrative scenes exploring social injustice.

Perry was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003. His work will feature in Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (6 Oct, 2011 – 19 Feb, 2012) at the British Museum, an exhibition which he curated himself.

Did you know?

In preparation for his exhibition at the British Museum, Perry held a competition to find a stunt double for his teddy bear Alan Measles. The stunt doubles will complete three shifts of six weeks, replacing Measles in a shrine installed on Perry's motorbike.

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