Produced in the UK just prior to his 2015 international artist in residence at Two Rooms, the current exhibition of drawings by UK-based David Shrigley, shows the artist at his acerbic best. Chronicling the most complex, as well as the most trivial, moments of human experience, Shrigley’s art is a never-ending stream of ideas, observations, jokes and strangely profound moral insights. His artistic practice is remarkably diverse, spanning a wide variety of media that includes sculpture, animated video, large-scale installation, painting, photography, music collaborations. Drawing, however, has been the mainstay of his practice. His signature style sees pared-down graphic forms, sputtering scripts, doodles, and cartoons that achieve an admirable combination of economy and eloquence.
The works have an immediacy and authenticity, an appearance of spontaneity which creates a direct relationship with his various audiences, who on different levels, identify with his work. Shrigley works intuitively, but in a remarkably disciplined manner. He typically draws for eight hours most days, and applies a rigorous editing process whereby up to seventy five percent may be discarded. He also has rules about his process and does not allow himself to refine or redraw any of his works, thereby preserving the original moment of creation, thought and action.
Shrigley’s work has a lightness and ease that belies the incisiveness of his propositions as he lays bare the ambiguities, absurdity and pathos of everyday life. His sensibility is constantly changing, and has over time shown a more profound sense of anxiety. It has become bleaker, more desolate, but still leavened by humour. His playful and irreverent ruminations on art and life are deadly serious in their subtle critique of the unconscionable realities of the contemporary world. Of his own work and the visibly changing approach to the outside world, Shrigley comments: “I suppose my work is a cathartic thing… it enables you to say what you want to say, and vent your anger about just the lunatic, idiot world we live in. I think I’m a much saner person because I’m able to be an artist, to be the kind of artist I am… The big themes are the ones that interest me – the ones like life and death that have the most potential to be the most comic. I don’t want to tell jokes about trivia… When I was in my 20s I talked about sex and that kind of thing all the time and now I’m in my 40’s and its death.”
David Shrigley, a Turner Prize finalist in 2013, is the winner of the Fourth Plinth Commission in London for 2016. His bronze work ‘Really Good’ will be unveiled in Trafalgar Square, London, in July 2016. In 2012, the Hayward Gallery, London, hosted a major retrospective entitled Brain Activity, which toured to Yerba Beuna Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, USA (2013). Recent solo exhibitions include: David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2014-15); David Shrigley, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2014); Big Shoes, BQ, Berlin, Germany (2013); How Are You Feeling?, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK (2012-2013); ‘Arms Fayre’,‘Drawings’, Mumbai Art Rooms, Mumbai, India (2012).
Shrigley’s works are included in prominent collections internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Thyssen-Bornemisza Contemporary Art Foundation, Vienna; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Tate, London; and The British Council, London.
From original text by Paula Savage
David Shrigley Brain Activity: Dave Eggers in Conversation with David Shrigley (Hayward publishing, 2012), p.151.