Billboard Series #19:
David Shrigley (UK)
Look at this!
07/04 — 14/07/2020
David Shrigley is a British artist who questions what brings people together. He is best known for his drawings, but also makes sculptures, animated films, and photographs. The starting point for his work is everyday life in all its strange forms, often with an absurd or surrealistic touch, and a sharp, somewhat dark edge.
The core of Shrigley’s practice is drawing. These are immediate translations of his ideas. He draws quickly and spontaneously, and so his drawings sometimes contain spelling errors or strikethroughs. Shrigley doesn’t rework an image until it is perfect, he doesn’t make a new version to correct a mistake in perspective or text. The drawings are like a stream of thoughts – exploring ordinary, everyday life. It is as if the artist is looking at our hopes and fears, our uncertainties, emotional traumas, heights and lows, and all the other small humanities that define our daily lives. His drawings remind us of what brings us together, and what makes us and human.
Shrigley has a style of drawing in which he combines image and text in a humorous, often colourful, and chaotic way. The drawings are mostly presented in groups – as a multitude of thoughts. Some drawings appeal directly to the viewer – with text like NEWS: Nobody Likes You; Be Nice and Please do not show this to anyone. Other drawings philosophise, with statements like This will not be here tomorrow. Other drawings sketch absurd and strange interactions between characters or show a character who loses himself completely in an unclear environment. The multiplicity of drawings inevitably leads to a dialogue between the images – a universal and at the same time surprisingly intimate conversation full of humour about what it is that man confesses to being.
David Shrigley - Untitled (News), 2018
David Shrigley - Really Good, 2016
David Shrigley - Life Model, 2013
David Shrigley - I'm Dead, 2007
In addition to drawings, Shrigley is also known for his sculptural work. In 2016, for example, he will be making a seven-metre-high bronze sculpture entitled Really Good at Trafalgar Square in London, in the form of a long, raised thumb. Another sculpture, entitled Beginning, Middle and End, was made by Shirgley with the help of a large number of volunteers. The temporary work consists of a four hundred meter long sausage of two tons of unbaked clay. For the artist, this is a metaphor for life: ‘a very shot beginning, a very short end, and a huge middle bit where lots of stuff seems to be happening’. Shrigley’s sculptures are very diverse, although humour always plays an important role. With I’m Dead, Shirgley made a series of cute stuffed animals that indicate to be dead with a pancarte, and his Giant Inflatable Swan-things is just like the title suggests: giant inflatable swans that fill a room and then slowly deflate again – and then take up space again. And for Live Model, Shrigley made a giant naked boy – who occasionally urinates in a bucket – as part of an installation that invites the viewer to draw the boy.
For Billboard Series, David Shrigley made a drawing that brings together many of his typical characteristics. It’s a work that combines text and image – a naked man’s behind with the commanding call Look at this. It’s a funny and strange image, especially when you see it so tall on the street. At the same time, it also has sharp edges – figuratively speaking, because it is a nice round ass.
As often, David Shrigley plays with a shift of meaning that an image can have. Inevitably you link this billboard to the many street ads full of half-naked women you see everywhere. Why does a naked man have a different connotation than a naked woman? What does it say that the world view imposed on us by marketing and advertisements? And about our consumer behaviour? Or maybe it should be read as a more provocative image, as someone who pulls down his pants – but to whom or what? To politics? To globalized neo-liberal economics? Or perhaps to you as a spectator and reader? At the same time, it could also be a perverse image – a vulnerable naked man, put in front of everyone from a kind of sadistic schadenfreude. Or is it all much more innocent? Is this a naked man, a streaker, who walks through your life with no other purpose than to conjure up a short smile on your lips?
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.