He does have a lot of respect though for well made traditional craftwork and so I was quite excited when I heard that he would be having a show at the British Museum titled "the tomb of the unknown craftsman" This surely I thought references Soetsu Yanagi's great book "The unknown Craftsman" and given that the British Museum itself is a temple to the best unknown craftsmen of ages past from around the world I was expecting an homage to those craftspeople, perhaps something that brought the objects to life again.
On my way into the museum I paused in room 24 which is themed "living and dying" it's a room I have spent time in before and has magnificent artifacts varying from Inuit hunting implements and clothing to one of the wonderful Easter Island sculptures. Here are just a few of the wonderful items on display. A Maori food bowl, the carving on the underside particularly special.
and moving into the great court a magnificent Haida house frontal pole
the Haida people and all North West Coast carvers are truly one of the great woodworking cultures of the world, the design and craftsmanship are just wonderful, look at the toolmarks here, no sandpaper, a thousand precise cuts with sharp tools.
"Bonnet, Samoa, early 1800's Turtle shell and cotton"
I learned nothing of the context the object came from, the people who made it, when such an incredible thing was worn etc. maybe that is the job of a museum not an art exhibition. Amongst Grayson's work it was interesting to see a wide range of his big pots but I was most taken by his cast iron sculptures and two in particular from 2007 titled our father and our mother, strange pilgrim figures with their worldly goods on their backs. The tomb itself was also a large cast iron sculpture of a ship adorned with casts of objects from the BM collections, some how it didn't grab me, I went back out for another look at the Haida pole.
Maybe what I like best about Grayson is actually his writing, I enjoy the blog allegedly written by his teddy bear/god figure Alan Measles often ireverant and thought provoking. This is what he had to say at the end of the exhibition on Craftsmanship.
"Craftsmanship is often equated with precision but I think there is more to it. I feel it is more important to have a long and sympathetic hands-on relationship with materials. A relaxed, humble, ever-curious love of stuff is central to my idea of being an artist. An important quality of great art of the past was the pure skill in the artists use of materials. In celebrating craftsmanship I also salute artists, well most of them."