Last Friday celebrated the launch of a new book, Weak Messages Create Bad Situations, by Glasgow artist, David Shrigley. Held at the De La Warr pavilion, Shrigley discussed the project and shared some of his previous and upcoming work.
The book, or manifesto, consists of a collection of Shrigley’s instantly recognisable drawings – simplistic cartoons teamed with exceedingly witty captions.
He begins the talk by sharing some of his recent (and slightly unusual) projects, particularly his work with robots. His sculpture Life Model, for example, was exhibited as part of the Turner Prize 2013 competition and consists of a giant boy who, bizarrely, is programmed to blink and pee in a bucket. While discussing this whacky work, the room fills with laughter and it becomes obvious why Shrigley is known for his sharp sense of humour.
The humorous artist has produced many more unique sculptures. His 2010 piece, displayed at The Haywood Gallery, features a stuffed dog holding a sign that reads “I’m DEAD”. This provokes Shrigley to joke about the social media abuse he receives, as the Jack Russel racked up a number of tweets claiming that the art was animal cruelty. “Um, don’t they know there are art laws?” is his nonchalant response, which again prompts more laughter among the crowd.
In fact, the stuffed pooch was actually created to mock “obvious” labels that people use. Shrigley then shared his favourite examples that he’s come across, such as a photo of a cake with the label “CAKE” attached. “Does the label make it anymore of a cake?” he joked. “And if you were buying the cake, surely you’d know it was a cake.” The audience were now in a constant state of laughter, myself included.
“Obvious” labelling appears to be a common theme throughout his work, including the new book; mocking messages that “tell you things you already know”. The manifesto is filled with his typical-style drawings and humorous captions, such as an image of a man in a washing machine paired with the line “I was dirty”. “My main aim is to fill the page,” says the artist. “Sometimes the drawings come first, sometimes it’s the captions.” He then talks about his fascination with diagrams and rulers, which is also reflected throughout the book.
Shrigley’s next major project will be his Thumbs Up sculpture, which will be displayed on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth in 2016. While the comments on his work are often sarcastic, the Turner Prize nominee sums up the evening with a more sincere remark – “As an artist, you have to think that your art will make the world a better place”. He thus intends this fun design to “brighten up” London and induce a sense of positivity.
I find that this optimistic outlook is a regular feature within Shrigley’s work. Humour is hard to find in the prestigious world of art, therefore his contribution of silliness and simplicity is indeed refreshing.
By Jodie Simpson