Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years opens at the Sainsbury Centre

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. Picture shows Vanessa Tothill, assistant curator for the SCVA and curator of the show. - Credit: KATE WOLSTENHOLME

Tapestry, collage, illustration, ceramics, writing, TV presenting - the list goes on of Grayson Perry's attributes, his reputation leading him to National Treasure status.

Delayed due to coronavirus restrictions, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years has finally landed at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, and it was certainly worth the wait.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Exploring the artist's formative years, between 1982 and 1994, the show presents a period of self discovery as the viewer is presented with pots, plates, sculptures, video and sketchbooks, made at a time when Perry was learning his craft, discovering himself, and forming the ideas which are still explored in his work today. 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

The exhibition charts Perry's progression to becoming established in the mainstream arts scene in London. He says: “This show has been such a joy to put together and to see these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the 80s.

"It is as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme


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The show collects the work leading up to Perry beginning therapy before the birth of his first child, exhibiting his early exploration of the potential of clay to address big ideas within society. When looking through the artworks, which had been collated from various collections, many private, he remarked that the works were a reminder of his "pre-therapy years". 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

Sainsbury Centre assistant curator Vanessa Tothill, supervisor of installing the show, talks of Perry's work: "As you look around you'll see a lot of sexual imagery, a lot of graphic imagery. He was part of that movement which aimed to shock the public, shock them into an awareness of his art and of ceramic being a craft that could provoke the public.

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"Ceramics has this reputation of being a little sleepy, a bit parochial, very tame. Grayson Perry transformed that medium.

"He is exploring his gender, his sexuality, his interest in fetish, in religious experience. Not only does he explore his feminine side through Claire, but he is also exploring masculinity."

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Wolstenholme

The touring exhibition was organised by The Holburne Museum, Bath. It is accompanied by a major new book published by Thames & Hudson that explores, for the first time, Perry’s artistic origins through the artworks that made his name in the years 1982–94.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is on at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until January 30,  2022. Tickets £12/£11 concessions, book online at sainsburycentre.ac.uk.

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