'Mainly, I’m proud that I don’t have to have a proper job' - David Shrigley interview

The Glasgow-based artist discusses his work

CRAP. It's brilliant

This was one of a series of drawings I did for a German newspaper at the time of the Münster Sculpture Project in 2007. I guess you could say that I have a love-hate relationship with public art.

Ahead of the publication of an anthology of his work, David Shrigley talks about the process of compiling the book, and his pride at never having had a proper job

'I suppose the voice I speak with in my work is someone who doesn’t have a sound grasp on all the realities of life. It’s someone who thinks all the really unimportant things are massively important and equally, pays no attention to massively important things. I like the idea of paying real attention to the particular, and giving it far more significance than it probably needs.

When people talk about my work, one word they seem to come up with quite a lot is ‘mordant’. I guess the humour is quite dark. And there’s quite a scatological thread running through a lot of it too … But there’s also a certain naivety about what I do.

It was really quite daunting - and hard work - having to select the works that would go in the book. Once you’ve looked at your work for a long time, you cease to see it for what it is. I sometimes just see borders and margins and colours. But ultimately the process of compiling the book has been a really satisfying one. Seeing the finished book made it all feel worthwhile.

We had long discussions about what constituted a “greatest hits collection”. But in the end, I would say it’s not really an artist’s monograph; it’s more of a collection; an anthology of my work. It’s mostly my graphic work, but there’s some sculpture and photography in there too. Some of my better-known drawings are in there, as well as limited edition prints that maybe haven’t been widely seen, and some previously unpublished stuff.

I started out self-publishing my own photocopied books, and there are some works from those days. The drawing “Time to Choose” with a monster picking between “good”, “evil” and “don’t know”, that’s one of the older ones. That was 1993, I think.

Looking back, I guess my style has stayed pretty consistent, and my handwriting is a unifying element throughout. The sculpture work is very different. It’s hard bringing illustration to life, and it can often be quite jarring. A bit like when they do a live action version of a cartoon. Did you see the film version of The Flintstones with John Goodman? Then you’ll know what I mean.

Hopefully what’s in the book is quite illustrative of my sensibility. I love being at home and drawing. It makes me very happy. It’s allowed me to travel and do some crazy, brilliant and peculiar projects, like directing music videos or doing Worried Noodles [a double CD of his lyrics set to music by 39 artists]. But mainly, I’m proud that I don’t have to have a proper job. That was always my over-arching ambition. And seeing my wife walk down the street, offending dog-walkers wearing one of my “Kill Your Pets” t-shirts. That’s pretty funny.’

(interview by Claire Sawers)

I deliver ‘lectures’ about my work from time to time. Sometimes they are well received. Sometimes they are not.

I once bought my friend’s four-year-old son a real axe for his birthday. The boy was very disappointed that he was not allowed to play with it.

Apparently this is true. I read it in a fashion magazine.

I like diagrams. I like them so much that I sometimes draw diagrams that don’t refer to anything. I would like to make a book of diagrams that would be called The Joy of Diagrams.

The Essential David Shrigley is published by Canongate on Thu 2 Sep.


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