As part of my Art History studies I had to join a group and present to our tutorial class why we believe David Shrigley should win the Turner Prize 2013. David Shrigley is a British visual artist who works in various medias. He is best known for his humerous cartoons, which aim to prove that fine art isn’t necessarily always elitist.
His Turner Prize Exhibition features a 7ft kinetic life model posing proud in his nakedness that when switched on blinks and urinates into a bucket carefully placed in front of him. He’s displayed in the setting of a life drawing class. His comedy ears, long nose, disproportionately short stumpy legs and abnormal penis all display Shrigley’s odd sense of humor. What makes this exhibit so unique is that it invites exhibitors to interact and draw the already badly drawn boy, and their drawings are displayed. It’s not something only the artistically gifted can join in with as the drawer’s skill is irrelevant; the possibility of drawing a realistic life drawing is taken away when the subject itself is not realistic, easing any concerns or feelings of inadequacy the exhibitor may have.
There is this social construct where we are to approach a life drawing class composed, sensible and with maturity; anyone who fails to do so is looked down on, regarded as inferior and childish. What’s brilliant about this exhibit is you can come in straight-faced, prepared for a life drawing class and are met by a funny looking character who unexpectedly pisses in front of you – it completely disarms you and releases the laughter of anyone’s inner child. Is his work art? Or is it the exhibitors responses that are the art in this piece? Or is the art the reaction of people and how people behave in this setting? It all sparks the debate of What is Art?
When we were given this artist I was a little unsure – I’m being marked to convince people a man who thinks 5 years of toenail clippings is ‘art’. I wasn’t overly impressed with his other work at first glimpse either (not that there was anything wrong with it, it’s just not my cup of tea, really). I was researching into his work – I looked particularly at his sculptures – and just didn’t get it. But then I thought, why is it that I didn’t care for a hanging sign that read out ‘HANGING SIGN’ titled Hanging Sign? Or a taxidermy cat holding a sign saying ‘I’m Dead!’? His bizarre, crude, unconventional scratchy drawings didn’t impress me at first either and having to present his work in a positive light made me question why this was. It made me think about why we see things of simplicity, humour and playfulness as inferior and something not worthy of the name ‘Art’. We are made to feel that maturity and seriousness is something we should be aspiring to, but why? Critics of his work are mainly critical because they don’t consider him to be a serious artist, when in fact Shrigley is very serious about what he does and works hard at it.
Everyone will have a different opinion of what art actually is – and that’s what art is; entirely subjective. Personally, I think art’s function, its purpose, is to have an impact on its viewers, whether that’s positive or negative. From photography to installation art, art can make you feel happy, sad, stunned or even uneasy, so why can’t it make you laugh? Why is the line drawn there and who by? His work is a breath of fresh air allowing you to take a break from the seriousness of every day life and appreciate things in their simplicity. It makes you realise it’s okay to laugh and really think – so much more than just simple drawings or basic sculptures.
And if anyone’s interested, my group won the most votes for David Shrigley!