David Shrigley

Images: http://davidshrigley.com/

I suppose you could say you know when I'm making a sculpture of a woman doing a poo (laughs) thats something you know "it's very much about the human condition ladedadeda"... but there's also something obviously very childish about it aswell...

Some of his work seems a bit like a young male teenager's response to the world which I find hard to connect to, but then there are plenty other examples of his work which do appeal to me. I appreciate all the works in the slide show above. The 'Alice in Wonderland' child-like qualities of "Very Large Cup of Tea" (glazed ceramic, tea and milk) is really funny by the very fact that, despite its size, its a real cup of tea in a gallery - kind of like Duchamp's Urinal - but more humorous and very, very English - they're always offering, making and drinking cups of tea.

To me, his work crosses over between childishness and child-likeness - the former of which tends to have much more negative connotations than the latter. My true nature is highly silly and often immature. In fact, the more that side of me comes out the happier my days, for what could be better than a fit of giggles with friends where one ends up rolling around on the floor and nearly wetting ones pants? I sometimes feel there are huge gaps in my life where I haven't managed to connect with people in that completely ridiculous way and those times in life are hard. When I think about it, I do regard being able to have a good laugh as one of the high-points of life. Reminds me of the Indigenous communities I've lived in - one of the aspects of their culture I noticed is they're always "taking the piss" out of each other and not taking offence - something I've always also loved about the Scots (Shrigley was born in England but his time at Glasgow school of art has rubbed off on him perhaps - and anyway English are funny too).

In his interview, David, reflects on the comic nature of his work and his desire to also be taken seriously:

Earlier in my career I denied the comic nature of it... I wanted people to know that the work was serious somehow but I think that increasingly I've come to understand that comedy is sublime... its special... its very important... its something that we need... its the one sense that you can't do without, is your sense of humour.

I like Shrigley's sculptures and participatory works such as the life drawing class, which I would love to experience rather than merely look at a photo of it. I am hoping to explore more participatory work as time goes by - I guess I already do that as part of my Art Adventure Tours - but that's not in a gallery context, so somehow feels different. The Life Model is so badly formed, the opposite of what you'd expect from an artist - there being no poetry or finesse to the mis-proportioned figure. His comments about it (below) remind me of the Picasso era where artists were striving to "un-learn" how to draw - to come back to that freshness of childhood...

I studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the late 1980s, a school with a very strong figurative painting tradition. I don't demonstrate really any many craft skills in my work now. People often ask "Are you an outsider artist" or something like that and I say "Well no, I did learn to draw". I guess its not really that important, objective drawing. The way that I draw now is the same way as I drew when I was a young child. Its just ...the easiest route possible to say what you want to say. Its essentially born of a decision not to objectively render three dimensions. They are only rendered as competently as they need to be....

His interviews are good to watch.

I wonder how much of an artist's success is contingent on their personalities. I almost prefer watching him talk about art and process, than looking at his artwork. There's an interesting dynamic between artists and their work - there's always been a fascination with the artist when one's work becomes famous - a la movie stars really. In any case, I really resonate with how he talks about process. One thing I've noticed in my own artmaking is that the more I allow the process to guide me the better.

I don't think you ever set out to make work in any particular way or make work with any particular content. I certainly never did anyway. I think the work just evolves.... A big part of what I do is to try and avoid contrivance... I'm striving for the opposite of that... For some kind of intuitive, accidental moment.

Essentially what I get from his interviews is that whilst he does, sort of take what he does seriously, he is silly about the seriousness of it. I've always had a saying of my own which goes like this: "It's important to be serious about the silly things in life and silly about the serious things". I wonder what David would think of that. He keeps a lightness about his work and his process, by deliberately pushing against some of the set ups or expectations of the "art world"...

Whenever I make an exhibition I increasingly I just think of it as a space to fill up with stuff... I'm best known for making drawings and in a way that's the centre of what I do... but if I just made drawings all the time, I'd never have the opportunity to make a big show in a place like the NGV... so I make objects as well.

I think this statement is hilarious, and said with a complete seriousness. He is playing with the superficiality of playing the role of "artist" in the world which I think is something I've been doing all along too - it absolutely cracks me up how seriously art is taken, in my experience... and I, in no way, with to diminish art, but rather to elevate it to something lighter than that which it sometimes becomes. This perspective is further illustrated by his reluctance to do the "art speak"....

I don't really want to say too much about the work....because it is what you think it is.... and whatever conversation you want to have about it is totally fine...I tend to say as little as possible... I'm not interested... or well I am interested in there being multiple understandings of the work.... I'm not the kind of person who would write a press release about an exhibition...

I guess, further on this topic, I could just mention that in a way, the relationship between artist and the art institution has always been a complex one - artists are always trying to break away from expectations and really do their own thing, whilst also, ideally being accepted, loved or approved. And what's more, their livelihood often depends on it. This relationship between the artist and the "field" within which gatekeepers make decisions about you being "in" or "out" is an odd one. I wonder about it a lot and I wonder if the artist would exist without the field - and if they do, then would the be just as well off or even better off and what would that look like? I also wonder if being accepted by the "field" is a good thing, and then, "who" is one actually making the art for? The art school, then, is kind of in the middle, the place where the artists learn about what's expected of them - kind of like a strange club that has rites of passage for entering.

I digress.

Here, Shrigley tells the story of how he deliberately thwarts the Institution's requests for more information prior to an exhibition. It was funny to listen to him talk about how he was invited to participate in an exhibition and he asked for a whole lot of clay to be provided - when they asked what he was going to do with it - and for some sketches or plans - he kept ignoring their emails because he didn't want to decide prior to the day - he rocked up and he and the assistants they gave him, just rolled it in to one long coil. I kind of like his refusal to take himself or the art world too seriously...

The piece "Beginning, middle and end" which was abbreviated as "The Sausage"... I was interested in making something very intuitive and improvised in the space...and just wanted to be in a space and make something there... in a very ... setting myself quite a task really... I was aware that the curator probably wouldn't let me do this, so I lied and basically said I had an idea for a sculpture that required me making it in the space with wet clay... they said "Can you send us an image, drawings maybe?"...and i was like "yeah yeah I'll do that"... two weeks later no drawings... two weeks later....some email and I just ignored it and showed up...then they were like, I was there in the space and they stopped asking... I basically messed around with the clay... with these interns... what do you do with loads of clay? you just roll it in to a big sausage in a kindergarten sculpture way... and then I started thinking... I wonder how long it would be if I made all of this clay in to a sausage? it turns out its about 400 meters long... it was made by accident in a way... or at least by some deliberate improvisation."

I wonder if he had just told them at the outset that he was going to turn up with wet clay and improvise, if that would have been enough. Probably. Perhaps the whole deviousness of the process was part of the work, and what makes it fun for Shrigley. He's building in our minds, a background to works such as this, by telling such stories. A myth has been created. Like he wants to be the art world's Ned Kelly? I like that he mentions kindergarten in his spiel - he really seems to be sort of like a Peter Pan, making chlidhood and the realm of being "naughty" something sacred...

As an Art Therapist, and knowing that the domain my art making sits in overlaps the art and art therapy worlds, I was interested to hear him mention art therapy in relation to my favourite of his works...

The centrepiece... is the life model piece... I made that... for an exhibition which was... nominally about Art therapy. All the works had ...an interactive element to them and this one was just drawing as art therapy - drawing being a good thing for people to do... making art being a good thing for people to do... a healthy thing...

The politic behind Shrigley's work is similar to mine - that art is a good thing for people to do... well I'd agree with that.

I enjoyed listening to him talk about the bed he set up in one exhibition - to invite the gallery goers to take a nap like he does in his studio - to be part of the exhibition in doing so. He called the work "Napping Station". He says its "not an artwork.... its just a place where you can take a nap.... I have a napping station in my studio and I sometimes take a little nap...and then I feel revitalised afterwards and I hope that people will take the opportunity to have a little nap... and make them feel better afterwards" so that they are "better able to appreciate the works... but I like the way if you're lying there having a little kip, that you sort of become like a sculpture... you've become a little performance piece... that's kind of nice... makes me laugh".

All quotes came from the Video listed below.

All images from his website.

Website: www.davidshrigley.com

Video: "David Shrigley Interview" https://youtu.be/99X_SjedIfs

And then one more thing... another quote but this time from a different video: "David Shrigley Interview: Advice to the Young" https://youtu.be/CMuVNQZdigI

The artwork is the residue of a process of a project rather than something that you see and have to realise thereafter....

I also feel that the process is what its all about. ... but that's enough talking about this. See ya.

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Fiona Haasz • 0412 099 397 • fionahaasz@gmail.com • Australia