David Shrigley – Hayward Gallery


David Shrigley: Brain Activity @ Hayward Gallery, London

‘The responses I would like are laughter, intrigued confusion and disquiet’

This is what David Shrigley is hoping for from his current exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank, and to a large part this is exactly the response he is getting.

Shrigley’s strength lies is in his surreal, skeptical sketches, quickly executed and despairingly witty. His faux-naive style gives him a huge area to play with, and get away with things many would not. Although if analysed closely many of his drawings would appear deeply disturbing, he manages to turn these situations around with the flick of his pen or by the juxtaposition of a choice phrase or witticism added into the mix.

His anarchic, dark sense of humour seems to perfectly capture the troubled zeitgeist, and much of his work dwells on the nature of death and human failure, in a chillingly humorous way. But sometimes the absurdity of the situation is enough, and there is really little or nothing to analyze except the instant effect they have on the audience.

Although his works look so simple, David Shrigley does something that is incredibly hard to pull off, and often he doesn’t even succeed. There is a fine line between laugh out loud funny and falling flat on it’s face, and sometimes he gets on the wrong side of this line, but more often than not he finds himself dallying with the former.

Equally as compelling are his short animations, also executed in his trademark ‘childlike’ style, and often even more surreal than his drawings and thoroughly entertaining. When looking at his animation of a headless drummer you cannot help but smile, the absurdity of the situation shining through. Another, Light Switch, recalls Martin Creed’s Turner Prize winning The Lights going on and off, and New Friends, a short fable about a square making friends with circles is another one guaranteed to spread a grin across your face.

With the world on it’s apparent last legs, always being prepared by the media for the social and economic apocalypse ever on the horizon, David Shrigley is a satisfying voice whispering into your ear “Everything is going to be alright”. We all die in the end so we may as well enjoy the journey and on the way, continue to Fight the Nothingness.

-Marcus Pibworth

David Shrigley: Brain Activity runs until 13th May 2012 at the Hayward Gallery, London