David Shrigley has branched out into taxidermy, a seemingly oh-so-popular medium of choice for artists nowadays (see here and here). The British artist, who is most known for his dark humour sketches, has his first major survey in the UK at London’s Hayward Gallery. The exhibition David Shrigley: Brain Activity (1 February – 13 May 2012) features some 175 works spanning his career, including drawings, photographs, sculpture, animation, painting and music….and taxidermy, of course. Shrigley’s work is characterised by its graphic, deliberately amateurish style, its immediacy and accessibility, and always insightful and witty commentary on everyday life.
He sees his work as a ‘reaction to banal pop culture’, he explains, and perhaps the directness with which he communicates reflects this apparent one-dimensional immediacy of contemporary society. Boredom is his inspiration, and the exhibition is split into four themes that spring from this: death, misery, characters and misshapen things.
This is a show that you must go see, and to prove it take a read at why the critics love the exhibition:
Time Out on getting your cockles warmed: “This is pure joyful cynical crazed escapism for the dark cold days. Expect more of the off key Shrigle scribbles you know and love, plus some new ones with 175 drawings, paintings, photographs, sculpture and animated films on display to warm your cockles.”
Simon Tomlinson (Daily Mail) on making death not so grim: “Welcome to the macabre world of David Shrigley, the artist-cum-taxidermist who in his own unique and graphic way offers a witty twist on the subject of death. For a man whose drawings were once described by novelist Will Self as like those of a serial killer, there is no shortage of the bizarre, the disturbed and the debauched at his new exhibition [...] His moral (if that can be the right word) of the story may stink of the pointlessness of existence, but Macclesfield-born Shrigley is keen for people to laugh about it.”
Steve Pill (Metro) on absurdity: “To recreate his rather self-explanatory 2001 installation, Nailed Biscuit he needs to find a way to make a perfect hole in the centre of a RichTea. Shrigley assures us that all artists make similar requests of their hired hands – ‘you could write a great book about it’ – but it is safe to say that Brain Activity will be the Southbank’s first exhibition to also require a taxidermist to remove the head of an ostrich and a shopping list to be carved on a gravestone.”
Thomas Keane (Artlyst) on saying more with less: “We are confronted throughout with the one-liner format but, in this context, the genre gains gravitas – as, in the words of the artist, a principled ‘economy of narrative, very much like Samuel Beckett’, telling people ‘far less than they need to know’, and forcing the viewer to creatively construe from fragment.”
Alastair Sooke (The Telegraph) on being popular: “In an age when the Turner Prize still leaves many people mystified, Shrigley communicates with an audience beyond the solipsistic art world. Since he emerged in the mid-1990s, he has let much of his output run riot in the mainstream, rather than locking it up inside the ivory tower of fine art [...] He is an exuberantly gifted humorist. His message may be pessimistic, harping on about the pointless absurdity of existence, but the manner in which he conveys it is gloriously funny; there is always laughter in the darkness.”
Adrian Searle (The Guardian) on the real David Shrigley: “Shrigley’s bleak, black humour and sophisticated grimness make you wonder about the mind that made this work – crazy guy, crazy art, you think. But Shrigley in person is mild, polite, ostensibly English [...] Yet much of what he does gives the impression of having been produced by a madman sequestered away in a locked ward, sending out messages under the door [...] There are lots of artists who, furrowing their brows and trying to convince us of their seriousness, aren’t half as profound or compelling [...] His work is a kind of corrective, a dissection of the human condition. He would have had Beckett in tears; and that Austrian master of miserabilism, the writer Thomas Bernhard, might even have cracked a smile.”
Amy Rich (DIY) makes you a promise: “A master with a wry, chortle-inducing take on life who simultaneously manages to ride the waves of pop culture and art and seduce them both [...] There’s no way you’ll leave this exhibition without either a) a smile on your face, b) a look of utter bemusement, or c) a haul of David Shrigley-related goodies from the shop.”
….and a final note from the curator, Cliff Lauson: ”The foundation of David’s work is his fantastic, brilliant sense of humour. I have been laughing since I started working on the show – it will definitely be an enjoyable exhibition experience. He is part of a tradition of artists who haven’t taken art so seriously, going back to Marcel Duchamp. He is almost like a more playful surrealist. There is a constant return to the disjunction between image and text: Magritte is one of his artistic heroes.”
Where? Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
When? 1 February – 13 May 2012. Open daily 10.00 – 18.00, closes at 20.00 on Thursday and Friday
Transport? Waterloo and Embankment
How much? £8 full price, £7 seniors, £6 concessions and students, £5.50 children aged 12-18, free for under 12′s.