Hand-crafted irony: Grayson Perry's polite pots are smooth, charming and, on closer examination, downright offensive. Robin Dutt admires his cheek

Shock as art tactic is nothing new. In fact, it is increasingly becoming the staple of several artists. But shock and subtlety - now that's something more enjoyable.

Subversive ceramicist Grayson Perry knows no other way than polite outrage. Having been on the art scene for more than a decade and encouraged by, among others, art dealers James Birch and David Gill, he now achieves the curious but not dubious accolade of showing at the chic Anthony d'Offay Gallery this month.

For many art observers Perry is a strange choice for d'Offay, who usually sets the art trend - Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Beuys, Jeff Koons, Bill Viola and company. His work is hardly sleek. Tumbledown vases and urns - more William and Mary haphazard than 1990s perfect, sit stoically on plinths and shelves, reminders of past times. And yet, in d'Offay's case, this decision to show Perry may be a throwback in itself to his early days when he showed more classic art such as work from the Omega Group.

Grayson Perry began making his laboriously hand-built pots more than 10 years ago but can trace his interest to a specific incident in his childhood. 'One afternoon when I was eight or nine years old, I was given my first pottery lesson at Woodham Ferrers C of E School, Essex,' he says. 'To protect our clothes we were made to wear long-sleeved smocks made of light blue rubber. I can vividly recall mine being too small as the pottery teacher did up the snap fasteners down the back. I became very excited at the feeling of the tight smooth material. In this state I made my first ever pot, an ashtray for my dear mother.'

And the excitement has not diminished. He has the mischief of a pixie. When he laughs, he sounds a bit like a little creature from Tolkien's Middle Earth. He used to be even naughtier and indeed arrogant but 10 years and one child later, Perry, who lives with his wife in Georgian semi-splendour in Islington, has toned down - a little. He still pursues his favourite subjects, though - sex, death, power, money and above all, it seems, class. Here is a man who is certainly classist and hates the upper and lower echelons with equal vigour. As for those comfortably in the middle, they are beneath contempt.

He chooses pottery as a medium for his work because it is essentially so inoffensive and acceptable. None of us balk at an urn, a vase, a dish or a platter. They all seem at home - at home. But where Perry scores is by lulling us into a false sense of security using familiarity and then delivers the coup de grace. Polite and acceptable the shapes may be, but on closer inspection they are etched and scratched with countless obscenities, riddles, poems, one-liners, conundrums and superb Cocteauesque drawings. Colourful transfers are sometimes applied in the form of little floral cut-outs, adding a manic, Victorian scrapbook feel.

All this madness and mayhem goes on within the strict confines and outlines of a very polite pot, and this is half the reason for his success. His sense of irony is keen, his observation sharp to the point of cruelty. But irony and sarcasm can wear thin. The style cognoscenti will always love him but will d'Offay's better-heeled crowd warm to his schoolboy mischief? After all, the titles of the pots, often barbed and spiked, are specifically aimed at the audience who just might be able to afford them.

'Pot for Wealthy Westerner with Good Taste', 'A Better Class of Souvenir' and 'Pot for a Broken Home' are examples. However Perry's laissez-faire attitude is compelling. And it is to his credit that he has attempted to challenge the nature of what is an art or craft object, in an arena much-bloodied by the pointless battle between both. Perry's pots are unashamedly hand-crafted fine art pieces - the best of both worlds.

Grayson Perry's ceramics are on view at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London W1 (071-499 4100) from 20 Oct

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week