This summer, internationally renowned artist and Turner Prize finalist David Shrigley will hold his first major survey in Australia at the National Gallery of Victoria. David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing will present new and recent work by the Glasgow-based practitioner, who has developed a cult following for his stripped back, darkly humourous and deliberately simple drawings that explore existential dramas, human dysfunction and anxiety.
Opening on 14 November, the exhibition will encompass drawings, paintings, sculpture, animated videos, artist books and multiples, and a new sculptural commission for NGV International’s Waterwall titled General Store. The artist’s omnipresent sense of humour lies at the heart of these works, which are manifest in tragicomic narratives that reflect on the banality and absurdity of everyday life and objects.
Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘David Shrigley is one of contemporary art’s most unique conceptual artists; his works are renowned for their humour and ability to convey in stark black and white the most complex as well as trivial moments of human experience. David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing is the artist’s first comprehensive Australian exhibition and is sure to delight his avid fans in Melbourne and beyond.’
Shrigley was a finalist in the 2013 Turner Prize following his critically-acclaimed major retrospective exhibition, Brain Activity, at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 2012. He was recently awarded the prestigious Fourth Plinth Commission, to be unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 2016.
At the centre of Shrigley’s exhibition at the NGV is Life Model 2012, most recently presented in the Turner Prize. This participatory work takes the form of a life drawing class, comprising a large sculpture of a naked, ungainly man upon a plinth – who blinks at irregular intervals, and urinates into a bucket every two or three minutes – surrounded by a field of chairs and easels so that gallery visitors are able to sit and draw the figure. The subsequent drawings, by usually anonymous, amateur people (but also including notable artists and celebrities) are displayed upon three walls of this sculptural installation.
The exhibition will also include the major installation Beginning, middle and end 2009, which involves a group of participants working under the direction of the artist himself. Together, they will fashion over two tonnes of clay into an expansive ‘clay sausage’ that is rolled out and arranged in the gallery space where it will slowly dry and crack over the course of the exhibition. The intestine-like mound of clay humorously reflects Shrigley’s interest in the human body and internal processes.
As English art critic Adrian Searle has noted, ‘Shrigley’s work is very wrong and very bad in all sorts of ways. It is also ubiquitous and compelling. There are lots of artists who, furrowing their brows and trying to convince us of their seriousness, aren’t half as profound or compelling.’
Born in Macclesfield, England in 1968, Shrigley studied at the Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1991. From 2005-2009 his drawings appeared weekly in The Guardian’s weekend magazine. He has published over 40 artist books to date, including What the Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley (2010) How Are You Feeling? (2012) and Weak Messages Create Bad Situations to be launched by Canongate Books in November this year.
The NGV will produce a standalone publication, David Shrigley, Life and Life Drawing, focusing exclusively on Life Model, to accompany the exhibition. The publication includes responses from a selection of artists, critics and audiences members including Will Self, Justin Clemens, Chris Kraus, Anastasia Klose and Jess Johnson, along with NGV curators Max Delany and Serena Bentley.
Shrigley has created animated music videos for the likes of Blur and Bonnie Prince Billy, created album cover art for Deerhoof and in 2010 collaborated on an opera called Pass The Spoon. In 2007 artists including David Byrne, TV On The Radio, Hot Chip, Liars, Grizzly Bear and Franz Ferdinand interpreted his writings as lyrics on the album Worried Noodles. David Shrigley’s work is held in major public collections including the Tate Gallery, London and MoMA, New York.
An engaging series of public programs will accompany the exhibition including an artist talk by David Shrigley on Saturday 15 November, 2.30pm, to be followed by a book signing for the launch of his latest book. Visit ngv.vic.gov.au for tickets and further information.
David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawingwill be on display at NGV International from 14 November 2014 to 1 March 2015. Open 10am-5pm, closed Tuesdays. Free entry.