When I tell people I studied Art History at St Andrews, they tend to ask who my favourite artist is, and tend to be a bit surprised (/concerned) when I whip out a screenshot of a David Shrigley piece. Honestly, I do find that question almost impossible to answer, so this is only one of bazillions of examples, but Shrigley is right up there and, for some reason, always at the forefront of my mind (even if it’s my very conservative ex piano teacher who’s asking me…).
I think what’s so wonderful about David Shrigley’s art is that it’s immediately funny and engaging, but if you dig a little deeper it’s a lot cleverer than it seems on the surface. I think it’s a common mis-assumption that art in a faux-naif style is easier to create than art aiming to be naturalistic, when actually producing something so simple yet so effective is quite a talent. Usually with only a very frugal use of materials and minimalist aesthetics, Shrigley can generate a palpable tone and provoke an emotive reaction in a viewer, which, for me, usually falls somewhere between discomfort, relation, and laughter. I love his mix of hyperbole, sarcasm, and dark, deadpan humour, and think his creative abilities with word choice, grammar, and sentence structure can’t be overstated.
I feel he falls into the lineage of Dada & Surrealism in his way of teasing out the absurdity of our otherwise mundane everyday world, and has a particular knack for poking fun at its cruelty. The characters Shrigley depicts are usually exaggerated in their coarseness as are the forces of nature – the sinister elephant, for example, seems to play with fate: a bog-standard scenario like your car breaking down can feel like personal victimisation, even if it’s realistically just bad luck; this elephant doesn’t just happen to have crushed your car, its opted to. The overall picture is hilariously bleak: am I just hysterical and paranoid or is everything conspiring against me?
This, however, is obviously devastating news (although, he didn’t say anything about t-shirts):