Art lecturer recalls Turner Prize winner

A FORMER art lecturer who helped launch ceramicist and Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry's career has said spoken of his delight at his ex-pupil's success.

A FORMER art lecturer who helped launch ceramicist and Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry's career has said spoken of his delight at his ex-pupil's success.

Gerry Gardiner, who taught Perry fine art at Braintree College of Further Education in the mid-1970s, said: "For him to be shortlisted for the Turner was tremendous. For him to win it – that was fantastic."

The Chelmsford-born artist collected the £20,000 prize on Sunday and is best known for his classically shaped vases, which on closer inspection turn out to hold dark, sinister meanings reflecting his troubled up-bringing in Essex and difficult subjects such as child abuse and cultural stereotypes.

But he is also known for his transvestite alter-ego Claire, who Perry described as "an Essex housewife up to town to do some shopping" and "a cross between Katie Boyle and Camilla Parker Bowles."

She is a "forty-something woman who lives in a Barratt home, the kind of woman who eats ready meals and can just about sew on a button."

Mr Gardiner said that when Perry won the controversial prize and he heard his former student's laugh he was overcome by a wave of nostalgia.

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"I taught him at about the time of The Specials, two-tone, and punk rock," he said.

"He was about 18, and on a foundation course. He was fun. He was lively. He was interesting. He decided he wanted to be a fine artist, and it was my job to help him get a folder together so he could get onto a degree course, which in those days was not easy.

"I remember his sketch-book work which I liked a lot. I can still relate that to the pots he does now. It was all there – a lot of writing-based imagery."

Mr Gardiner, who taught art at Braintree College and Colchester Institute between 1971 and 1997, said he had been following Perry's career. "For him to make a living as an artist is a real achievement. Many are called, but few are chosen.

"I have met with him a few times since he left. With the pots, he has got hold of a redundant craft form, as people would see it, that has no respect, and grafted on a fine art sensibility.

"They are two opposite things. The pots are actually very beautiful objects. But when you get in close there is a very different reading, with all sorts of vile things going on."

The former lecturer, who also taught art to ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, added: "He sucks you in with the attractiveness of the object and then repels you."

A spokeswoman for Braintree Collegesaid: "We have an annual celebration of student achievements here and are always pleased to hear of the success of former students."