While his giant Really Good thumb stands atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, across London David Shrigley has unveiled another, much lower key public sculpture – in a skip in Hoxton. Look at This is exhibited in the recently opened Skip Gallery, a yellow skip placed on the road in the square, co-founded by Lee Baker and Catherine Borowski. On meeting David, Lee says his “irreverent and absurdist attitude seemed to fit perfectly with the ethos of Skip”, and David liked the idea. Now, a set of metal letters in David’s idiosyncratic writing style stand at the centre of the skip stating his phrase.
“Even though I’m the guy who does funny drawings,” David tells It’s Nice That, “I guess there’s a strong conceptual strand of my work, albeit a very Gonzo version of conceptualism. So in a way, this is one of my statements that is kind of like meta art. Art that describes itself, or describes the most basic function or demand of the artwork. It’s a phrase I keep returning to. I’ve used it a few times in drawings and sculpture. Just saying, ‘look at this’. Because that’s what I want, for people to look at it!
I ask him how Trafalgar Square compares to Hoxton Square. “This is less stressful, less time-consuming and much cheaper to realise. But there’s a context for every artwork. Sometimes the context is Trafalgar Square… and sometimes it’s Hoxton Square. And on this occasion it’s Hoxton Square,” he smiles, “so it’s a bit more modest I guess.
“One of the privileges of being an artist is you get to meet a lot of different people and have different experiences. I’m just interested in making work and putting it here, there and everywhere, whether it goes in an exhibition in somebody’s flat or the MoMA. After a certain point it doesn’t matter, because it’s still interesting and you still get to make it, and I still don’t have to have a job. So that’s good, right? That’s all I’m bothered about, having the opportunity to make it.
“When I did the Fourth Plinth I got to meet Sadiq Khan, and on this I get to meet other people who aren’t the mayor of London. It’s no less interesting. Sadiq Khan’s quite busy, so there’s less time to chat, but the people here in Hoxton Square perhaps aren’t so busy.”
Meanwhile, plans for his Really Good thumb are to try to sell it to a public collection once it’s tenure on the Fourth Plinth is over, ideally an outdoor sculpture park. “On a moral level it would be good to sell it because it means the GLA get all the production money back so it’ll fund it. It’s a saleable work, it’s made of bronze and it’ll last forever.”
Another work he’s been developing lately is a series of news posters, wryly mocking small town local paper headlines. The prints are titled News and are emblazoned with statements like: “Clocks no longer tell the time”, “Nonsense halted amid safety fears”, and “I went out for a bit and then I came back”.
“I make a lot of prints and I wanted to make one that’s different every time, and something that would be ongoing,” David says. “I’ve been doing one every few days, I just think of a headline. I guess they’re supposed to be subversive, in the sense I’m trying to think about what the news is and what can be news, what should be news and what constitutes news.
“I grew up in the midlands in the suburbs of Leicester and I remember in the Oadby and Wigston news, the local paper in the little town, there was a headline once that said “Fox kills chickens”. That was the news. Thing is, it makes you think no news is good news, doesn’t it? Especially these days. So I’m actually really happy when there isn’t any news! Or when the news is, “glove left on bus” or “woman spills coffee”. In a way, and I hadn’t realised this before I started it, but actually that’s quite comforting.”
David Shrigley’s Look at This is on show at the Skip Gallery, in a parking space opposite 19 Hoxton Square, London until 25 June.
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