David Shrigley at the Hayward Gallery
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It’s one of those exhibitions that will have you flaring your nostrils and scratching your head or gleefully running around and stiffling laughter.
We’re definitely in the second camp. On a busy Saturday morning we were surrounded by po-faced young art fans and, bizarrely, parents with kids. On the one hand the crude and simple techniques Shrigley uses (stick men, slopping painting, ill formed seemingly amateurish pottery) would appear to be just the kind of thing kids would love. Like this:
But under the crude scribbling is a dark humour, niche and mostly inexplicable. We want to go back and formulate some clever idea about intepollation and semiotics and all that, but frankly it’s been too long since we sat in an university library.
We won't spoil the sculptures or remaining animations for you, but there is one room where approximately 50 drawings are hung next to each other. As you go through and read them, you hit saturation point and start to cynically think ‘well, I can see what he’s done there, and I suppose that is a rather clever use of word and image, but it’s just not than funn...’ and then out of nowhere, something completely unfunny makes you laugh. For us it was the words ‘Congratulations!’ with a crudely drawn, two headed baby. It’s not funny (it’s fucking hilarious). You shouldn’t laugh at these things, they’re very serious (we nearly wet ourselves). And the whole exhibition is full of these kinds of surprises.
Keep your wits about you. Look out of windows, check the skirting boards, investigate every thumbnail and don’t miss a single peephole. Brain Activity is the most childishly adult exhibition you will ever see.
Tickets, it's open now and runs until 13 May at The Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre.
Words: Bob Henderson
Image: © the artist and courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman, photo: Mark Blower