Adorning the walls of the Cornerhouse, David Shrigley’s distinctive style arguably captures the zeitgeist of the 2000s. But place it in a less credible context and it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine his drawings used as evidence in the trial of a serial killer — the pictures having being torn from the walls of a darkened basement or beneath the fingernails of naked, eye-less victims. Whether you love him, hate him or wonder why you didn’t think of trying to sell your bus stop cock drawings too, it’s likely you’ll have an opinion on his work. And the latest free exhibition at the Cornerhouse is your chance to see it up close… and maybe a bit too personal.
I was lucky enough to be one of the few to be guided round by Harry Hill, in one of three sell-out tours. Kicking things off with a school register, we knew this wouldn’t be a portal into the mind of an illustrative genius. But a fond and funny piss-take by an old mate.
Harry Hill guiding us round was a great idea, as the two men aren’t as different as you might think. Both channel a vivid imagination into a creative and comedic outlet — except with Shrigley swapping Hill’s big collar and biros for a black felt tip and a cock fixation.
...we knew this wouldn’t be a portal into the mind of an illustrative genius. But a fond and funny piss-take by an old mate.
There was even a moment in the tour when Hill encouraged us to pinpoint the hallmarks of Shrigley’s signature style. Someone in the group mused that he “questions fundamental truths”. Others highlighted the “themes around death”. But it was obvious he wanted us to be much more literal — random words written on ruled lines, nudity, faeces. Because that’s what makes the work so popular, and ultimately, accessible. It’s as simple or as layered as you want to make it.
The title ‘HOW ARE YOU FEELING?’ summed up the exhibition brilliantly. Feeling melancholy after last night’s gin session and you’ll see intelligent subversion through deceptive illustrative simplicity. Go to see it whilst still drunk and you’ll be stifling giggles at the swearing and rude doodles.
Shrigley tells us that his “art therapy” is there to help you cope with “an increasingly crazy and poorly signposted world”. Ironically, the Cornerhouse is actually very easy to find. It’s inside that it gets a bit crazy.
Gemma Wildgoose (@gemwildgoose)
Cornerhouse, Oxford Road
6th October – 6th January