Joe Syer, Head of Urban & Contemporary Art
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David Shrigley's bright, funny & often somewhat profound images have drawn an enthusiastic following amongst art aficionados & the general public alike. Here we take a look at key facts about the artist:
The artist recieved an OBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours for his services to visual arts.
Shrigley’s final show at Glasgow School of Art was only awarded a 2:2, much to his continued chagrin—the markers, he later commented, “didn’t appreciate my genius”.
His work is rarely planned, instead the artist starts with a blank piece of paper and a list of things to draw, and sees where his whimsy takes him.
Shrigley’s most recent exhibition, Tennis Ball Exchange, featured over twelve thousand brand new tennis balls, stacked neatly across every available wall surface in a Mayfair gallery.
Whilst David Shrigley has worked across a wide range of mediums—including painting, installation, photography and animation—his most popular work remains his drawings. These rather rudimentary illustrations are generally paired with cheeky commentary or simple messages such as ‘be kind’, scrawled in schoolboy lettering.
Shrigley’s paintings contain, like all of his illustrations, an equal dose of dry humour and purposefully rudimentary technique. Scrawled in a combination of acrylic paint and oil stick, Shrigley’s paintings are bright and cheerful—cynical commentary couched within.
Shrigley has created a variety of large-scale installations and sculptural pieces during his career, including, perhaps most famously, Really Good. The work—a distended hand making an exaggerated thumbs up symbol—won the prestigious Fourth Plinth commission in Trafalgar Square, erected in 2016 as a sardonic comment on the recent Brexit decision.
Shrigley’s animals generally border on cutesy, his captions ranging from strong statements on contemporary issues like climate change—such as the statement accompanying his elongated image of the earth: ‘WORLD HAS BEEN DISTORTED, WE MUST RETURN IT TO ITS ORIGINAL SHAPE’—to clichéd—as in ‘YOU ARE SPECIAL’.
Whilst Shrigley has been drawing incessantly ever since, it was only during the lockdown period that he became a particularly prolific creator of black and white sketches, which saw him produce over 400 works.
Shrigley has also dabbled in animation since the late ‘90s—working in collaboration with animators to transform his sketches and comic strips into short videos. A collection of such clips was shown in 2013 at Gallerai Nicolai Wallner, whilst his Light Switch animation was screened during the David Roberts Art Foundation’s ‘On Screen’ program in 2020.