“I don't really want to tell jokes about trivia; I'd kind of rather tell jokes about things like life and death.” - David Shrigley
British artist David Shrigley is best known for his iconic cartoonish drawings of childlike imagery such as animals, food or toys drawn in vibrant colour, combined with deadpan text fragments from overheard conversations or Freudian slips. His work taps into the quick and punchy spirit of contemporary visual culture, gaining him an audience far beyond merely the commercial art world. Shrigley also works in other media such as sculpture, installation, animation, photography, tattoos and music. He constantly challenges boundaries between high and low art through his signature, subversive humour and clever combinations of text and image.
David Shrigley was born in 1968 in Macclesfield, UK, and is currently living and working in Brighton. After taking the Art and Design Foundation course at Leicester Polytechnic in 1987, he moved to Glasgow to study Environmental Art at the Glasgow School of Art until 1991. Both Shrigley’s writing projects and collaborations with musicians started early on in his career and continue to be an integral part of his practice.
In 2003, he directed the music video for the famous band Blur for their record ‘Good Song’, as well as made a collaborative album entitled ‘Worried Noodles’ in 2007, working with various musicians to interpret his texts as lyrics. Shrigley also started regularly contributing cartoons to The Guardian in 2005.
Between 2012 and 2014, he mostly produced black and white drawings of his signature cartoonish characters and fragments of writing. He had a mid-career retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2013 and was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in the same year. In 2016, he was commissioned to install the Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square in the shape of a monumental ‘thumbs-up’ sculpture cast in bronze in the spirit of his signature deadpan humour. In 2015, colour took over his drawings yet again, continuing until the present.
Shrigley’s compositions are usually simple, centred on one main figure or image, often a mundane subject like a cat, an alarm clock or a boot, paired with pithy text. Examples are Untitled (Old is New) from 2018 showing a sphynx and Untitled (The World) from 2018 showing a crocodile with a ball held in its mouth, saying ‘the world’. In the same year, he released a series of News drawings imitating a frontpage of a news magazine featuring funny statements such as ‘Hot Milk is Too Hot’, some of which were displayed at Stephen Friedman gallery’s booth at Frieze London fair in 2018. The display also featured some of Shrigley’s neon light installations and an animated video entitled Endless Joint (2017). In the storage unit of the gallery’s booth they also installed Shrigley’s sonic sculpture Extractor (2018), a fake fan with the artist’s voice imitating its sound.
From 2015 to 2018, Shrigley’s exhibition ‘Lose Your Mind’ organised by the British Council travelled to six countries and showed works from a variety of media, including ceramics and sculptural installations of mixed media and found object pieces. Other notable solo exhibitions include Do Not Touch the Worms at Copenhagen Contemporary, Denmark (2020); Exhibition of Inflatable Swan Things at Spritmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden (2018) and David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2014).
In 2020, Shrigley’s Lockdown Drawings, consisting of 340 colourful artworks inspired by the UK's coronavirus lockdown in spring 2020 were on view in the Stephen Friedman Gallery, which also represents the artist. Shrigley’s popularity amongst art and non-art audiences continues to grow as he conjures refreshing, child-like views of the world paired with tongue-in-cheek social commentary.