Turner Prize-winning artist hits out at cut to University of Portsmouth arts courses

CONCERNS Artist Grayson Perry with one of his works

CONCERNS Artist Grayson Perry with one of his works

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor David Fuller, Georgie Howard, 18, Head of Gaskell House, and deputy headmistress Heather Trim with students at the start of the walk Picture: Sally Tiller

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TURNER Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has hit out at proposed cuts to arts at the University of Portsmouth.

Mr Perry, who was a student at the Portsmouth Polytechnic, which later became the university, has called for the preservation of the workshops in small metals, glass and ceramics.

The courses face closure, along with 16 staff redundancies at the university’s school of art, media and design.

Instead the university proposes the launch of a new contemporary fine art course which would focus on digital media.

Ceramic artist Mr Perry, who won the Turner Prize in 2003 for his pottery vases, said: ‘The workshops are very important.

‘To make good objects you need to have a relationship with the material.

‘Computer-controlled delivery systems are marvellous but they have a certain deadness to them.

‘When I was a student we were allowed to use any department – woodwork, ceramics, painting. I was inspired by the processes I had a go at and now I use many different processes myself which is a testament to that.

‘Working with materials is our only unique selling point in the fine arts business. The problem with making things on computers is you could be making a tapestry or a metal sculpture, but the artist’s only contact would be a digital pad or a screen – that’s lame.’

Over the last decade Mr Perry has worked in ceramics, etchings, cast metal, computer-controlled embroidery and weaving as well as mass product items.

While he embraces digital media, he warns this should not come at the expense of traditional skills.

Mr Perry said: ‘Computers are a great gift to craftsmen but only in combination with practical skills. People who haven’t had their hands dirty are useless because they don’t have a practical ingenuity.

‘But a lot of people in power in institutions are still enthralled to the computer – a bit like Victorian doctors thinking electricity is a cure-all. They feel digital is the future.

‘Computers will only do what you ask them to do, whereas quite often materials fight back.’

The consultation into the proposals – that would save £526,000 a year in staff costs – closed on October 31 and the university is currently considering its response.

Mr Perry said: ‘I would like to see the university keep the workshops open. You don’t know what the future holds – we might all get bored of digital art quite quickly.

‘The trouble is the people in power don’t need to be makers. They need to be writers, thinkers, bureaucrats. They don’t have that relationship with things, they don’t treasure it. If it was a committee of experienced craftsmen closing the workshops I would give the proposals some credence.’

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