Human
Behaviour

David Shrigley's Human Behaviour (2022) print portfolio showcases his signature blend of humour and existentialism in a collection of four artworks. Pairing philosophically-inflected illustrations - including of a compass or of the earth - with altogether more quirky subjects - naked leapfrog, for example - Shrigley explores the absurd human condition and the responsibilities humanity bears.

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Meaning & Analysis

David Shrigley's Human Behaviour print portfolio, released in 2022, is a collection of four digital prints that give a flavour of Shigrley's unique combination of humour and existentialism. In these prints, Shrigley pairs his childish, often cartoonish illustration style with symbolically and philosophically weighty subjects, such as a compass or the earth, alongside more eccentric and unconventional subjects like naked leapfrog. Through this juxtaposition, Shrigley delves into the absurdity of the human condition and reflects on the responsibilities that humanity carries.

Released in 2022 alongside another portfolio of four, Animals & Existentialism, this portfolio develops the former's existential theme, but makes humanity's foibles more pointedly the focus of its exploration.

One of the distinct qualities of Shrigley's art is his ability to satirise humanity itself. While his presentation of the human condition is often humorous, the world is always seen by Shrigley through a lens of earnest childlike wonder and genuine enquiry. Thus, in this series, Shrigley puts into serious tension the absurd directionless of contemporary humanity, lacking the overarching ideology of religion, science, or philosophy (since these are always in conflict with one another) and the real pressure for collective action against climate change. The former dilemma is symbolically represented by the compass, captioned “ANY DIRECTION IS FINE”. while the latter is depicted by a hand, holding planet Earth and the corresponding imperative “DO NOT FUCK ABOUT WITH IT.” While Shrigley's illustrations are so obviously infused with humour through sheer absurdity and the irreverent use of profanity, there is a serious existential conundrum being posed. It is clear that, in Human Behaviour, Shrigley embarks on a contemplation of our place in the world and the choices we make as individuals, and the tension between the two.

In another print from the portfolio, I Mean No Disrespect, Shrigley's message is more ambiguous, owing to his more eccentrically inventive imagery. The print features two naked men, cartoon-style, with one leapfrogging over another. While the print is open to a range of interpretations, one possible suggestion is that Shrigley is commenting on class relations, with the kneeling man being used by the leaping man as a means of furthering himself. Stripped of the refined appearance of business wear, if it is a commentary on capitalist ventures, the men's nudity seems to imply our inherently animalistic competitiveness; even the placating caption "I MEAN NO DISRESPECT" cannot disguise that this seems to represent an unfair transaction.

In summary, David Shrigley's Human Behaviour print portfolio combines humour and existentialism to explore the quirks and absurdities of the human condition. Through his satirical illustrations and philosophical undertones, Shrigley invites viewers to reflect on their own responsibilities as a member of the human collective.