It’s a rare thing to enter a contemporary art gallery and hear people giggling, but David Shrigley‘s show of new work at Stephen Friedman Gallery is likely to have you chuckling even before you’ve opened the gallery door. Facing out into the street is a new sculpture by Shrigley, of a delicate taxidermied kitten holding up a placard proclaiming “I’m Dead”. The artwork sets the tone for the show, which contains Shrigley’s usual mix of humour and pathos.
Accompanying the kitten is an animated film, paintings, and a series of new drawings, exhibited en masse upon one wall, “like posters in a club,” Shrigley explains. The drawings will be familiar to many from Shrigley’s books, greetings cards and regular cartoons for the Guardian, but feel equally suited to a gallery environment.
“Context is half the work to some extent,” he says of his work appearing in a variety of different formats. “I guess I think quite a bit harder about what I do in the newspaper. You can’t be so oblique. You can kind of do anything you want in a white cube space, as inevitably everything you do will be seen as art. When people see it as a cartoon, there’s an obligation for it to make sense.”
“I’ve been thinking about what kind of artist I am – I do drawings because that’s the easiest way to present the ideas I have,” he continues. “But I’m not a cartoonist, I’m not really interested in graphic art – I’m interested visually and aesthetically in abstract painting. I’m a conceptual artist much more than an illustrator or really a cartoonist…. but I like the fact that people can pick up my work as a book and not necessarily see it as art.”
As long as he keeps making us laugh out loud, we’re happy to see his work in as many places as possible. David Shrigley’s show is on at Stephen Friedman Gallery until January 19, and his work will also appear in the forthcoming Hayward Gallery group show, Laughing in a Foreign Language (opening Jan 25), which will further explore the role of humour in contemporary art.