Brain Activity – David Shrigley – The Hayward Gallery – Southbank – Saturday 4th February 2012

The latest David Shrigley retrospective is a well curated, amusing and most of all highly intelligent collection of works. Shrigley is a very well known artist yet this is his first retrospective. Many critics and people struggle with Shrigley’s work and many reviews of this exhibition have questioned whether it is acceptable to laugh at an art show. However I believe it is a sign of how effective his work is at connecting with the audience.

David Shrigley is a graduate from the Glasgow School of Art – Sculpture and Environmental course and it is clear to see how the course affected the way he works.

The exhibition shows a broad range of Shrigley’s work from his simple and often grotesque drawings, absurdist sculptures, animation, taxidermy, site specific work and paintings. This gives a great insight into his work and shows how it is difficult to categorise Shrigley’s work as he moves easily between different medium in art.

Shrigley’s work looks at social standards and how we try to conform to them even though they are often pointless. For example in his animation New Friends a square is seen marching with other squares until he falls through a hole and is met by dancing circles, at first he seems happy to join in the fun environment until the circles carry him to have his corners ground off so he can become a circle. Although this seems comical and simple it is actually a comment on how to others change us so we may join their social circle.

Shrigley’s sculptures often change well known objects to make them useless particularly thinking about their scale, for example the giant cup of tea shown in the show seems almost depressing as it he has taken a normally comforting object and made it intrusive and unnerving.

Probably his most simple work is his site specific works, normally consisting of small posters with simple commands or phrases such as one piece which shows a large building and in the foreground a sign saying Ignore this building with a crude drawing of the building.

Simply put this exhibition is not only playful but clearly shows why Shrigley is so well liked and his impact on contemporary British art today.

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