David Shrigley: Self-delusion is quite important if you want to be an artist
Artist David Shrigley answers questions from our readers and famous fans
I actually almost always have a nap at 2.30pm, says David Shrigley, as we sit down in an upstairs room, a jug of water and a plate of chocolate digestives between us, at Graphica gallery in Brighton. I check my watch: its five to two. Its not going to work today, he sighs. But this isnt really work, this is just blah blah blah, its easy. The hard thing is writing things in the studio and thinking of stuff thats interesting.
An afternoon nap might sound indulgent, but it is hard to fault 49-year-old Shrigleys work ethic. An excellent new book is imminent: Fully Coherent Plan for a New and Better Society features 254 new illustrations, all drawn in his distinctive thick black pen on stark white paper, the naivety of the image offset by the scabrous, surreal or darkly comic text. Hes also the guest director of the 2018 Brighton festival (he moved to Brighton three years ago with his wife, Kim, and miniature schnauzer Inka, after 27 years in Glasgow). Shrigley has been involved in selecting performers for the festival which features everything from art to comedy to music to a lot that is indescribable and will be making several appearances himself.
To that end, below us, in a large room that still has the stained-glass windows and pulpit from its days as a church, the finishing touches are being applied to Shrigleys installation Life Model II. The work, which revisits a piece he made when he was nominated for the Turner prize in 2013, is an imposing 9ft nude woman with a severe fringe and long eyelashes that blink every so often. Surrounding the model are easels, paper and drawing materials, and visitors are invited to make a life drawing. These will then be tacked to the gallery walls and, in Shrigleys mind, become artwork just as interesting as his original sculpture, if not more so.
The show hasnt yet opened when we meet, so on the walls are some examples from the last time Life Model II was shown, in Vienna, which will act as a giddy-up to the people of Brighton. So they are drawings by Austrians, says Shrigley, as though this fact might explain a lot.
The Austrians struggled with the feet, I note. Well, of course hands and feet are always the hard things to draw, Shrigley replies. The [models] feet are an awkward size anyway, so Im giving you a get-out, but the hands are quite elegantly rendered, I suppose. Hands and feet hard. He points his long index finger at me: Foreshortening of the hand, oof, difficult!
Life Model II is a just part of Shrigleys contribution to the festival. Whats really disrupting his sleep right now is a new work called Problem in Brighton, which is billed as an alt-rock pantomime starring Pauline Knowles and Gavin Mitchell. In some ways its a companion piece to Shrigleys 2011 opera, Pass the Spoon, but the truth is that even the artist is unsure what it will look and sound like.
Ive always wanted to direct a performance on stage, says Shrigley. I did the opera thing a few years ago, but I didnt direct that, I just wrote the words. But the word pantomime suggests, oh well, its a pantomime, its like a rubbish, funny play for children. Then you say its alt-rock I didnt say avant-garde, because thats pretentious. Basically Ive set the bar really low, so I can do whatever I like and make a cacophonous noise.