INVITED EXTERNAL ARTIST/MAKER
SF: This is an alternative Q&A with artist David Shrigley. We hope you will enjoy the Shrigley humour.
David Shrigley was born in 1912 and lives in a 16th Century castle on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland. He has been married five times and has accumulated many children, none of whom he sees. After a career as a butcher in Glasgow he retired in 1975 to pursue his obsession with drawing. In the late 1980’s he was ‘discovered’ and has since achieved fame, publishing many books and exhibiting his work worldwide. Despite his old age he is still a keen badminton player.
What did you like doing when you where a kid?
Drawing pictures of dinosaurs; making models of spaceships using cardboard boxes; torturing insects.
When did the interest in art start?
Some of my earliest memories are of making drawings, so I guess it’s something I’ve done for my whole life. I didn’t think it was possible to have a career as an artist even when I was at art school, but I guess I was wrong.
Why do you prefer illustration over other techniques?
I like drawing because it’s very simple; it doesn’t require fancy materials; just paper and pencil.
If you had to draw the world right now, what would that image look like?
How would you describe your studio in five words?
A total complete f**king mess
How would you describe your working life in five words?
As functional as is necessary
Do you remember your first exhibition? What did you show?
The first show I had was when I was in the first year at art school. It was in a trendy bar and it felt very cool. I showed a portrait of my friend with a dog pissing on him.
Some people regard your work as “Outsider Art,” but you studied Fine Art at Glascow School of Art. Do you mind being categorised as such?
‘Outsider Art’ is a pretty specific definition. It can’t be applied to me because I’m most definitely an insider. I followed the same path as most professional artists.
I think a lot of people to assume I’m a weirdo before they actually meet me, then they comment afterwards on how normal I appear. I think when I’m making artwork I’m pretending to be someone else, and it’s the someone else that is the weirdo, not me.
What did your professors think of your work?
They didn’t get it. I almost failed art school. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t understand. I thought I was a great student.
How do you develop ideas for projects? How do you find themes and subjects interestings?
I think the themes that I am interested in have remained quite consistant, even from when I was a small child; I’ve always been interested in violence for example. I don’t know why though as I’m not a violent person at all. I guess there are lots of other themes that re-occur in my work, but I can’t tell you why I am drawn to those things; I just am.
There’re so many interesting ideas in your work. Could you explain a little about the humour and absurdity of them?
I suppose my work has a lot of humour in it, but I never intended it to be that way. In a way I think my work is quite serious because it deals with serious things like death, for example. But maybe if you are dealing with such serious things you need to do so humorously or it would be too much. Or at least it would be too much for me anyway.
What music are you listening to now? Is music a big influence for you?
I’ve been listening to the new Dinosaur Jr album (the greatest rock band in the world) amongst other things. I don’t know if music is a big influence on my art work, but it’s definitely a big influence on me. Being without music would be like being without food.
Could you tell us more about the relationship you have with music?
I’m a non-musician. I can play the guitar but you wouldn’t want to hear me doing it. Essentially I write words and do a bit of directing of actors who speak or sing and then sometimes I have a few production ideas, but essentially the music is made by other people. I like music, but my role in its creation is quite limited.
What’s your favourite Scottish music act – currently active – and why?
I like lots of Scottish bands. I’d say my favourite at the moment is Malcolm Middleton. I think he’s a brilliant song writer who is very under-rated.
What has been the most exciting musical discovery for you recently?
I discover things all the time. I bought the Marnie Stern LP yesterday and I’ve been playing it all the time since.
And the most exciting artistic discovery?
I discovered that it’s a bad idea to put tubes of acrylic paint in your hand luggage.
You said that if you had started your carreer in the Internet era you wouldn’t have published books. Why are you still publishing now?
I guess I like books. I do have a web site though…
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. It’s over 1200 pages long at has so far taken me 4 months to read.
Which is your favourite one?
My favourite book? ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ is pretty great.