David Shrigley OBE



Not on display

David Shrigley OBE born 1968
Ink on paper
Support: 210 × 127 mm
image: 210 × 127 mm
frame: 268 × 198 × 38 mm
Purchased using funds provided by the 2006 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2007


This untitled image is a simple, diagrammatic line drawing based on two circles and an isoceles triangle. The triangle fills the upper half of the paper, its base bisecting the page horizontally just above the centre and its vortex extending to the top centre of the page. In the paper’s lower half, a circle filled with letratone transfer dots extends to the bottom edge of the paper which crops it. Another slightly bigger circle floats over the page, intersecting with most of the triangle and extending downwards to touch the top of the first circle. Around this second circle, Shrigley drew a jagged halo, representing the sun’s flames. In the centre of the circle, just above the horizontal base of the triangle, he wrote ‘fuck the eclipse’, one word below the next, using capital letters and a thick-nibbed black pen.

The impetus behind Shrigley’s drawing was the total solar eclipse of the sun, visible at 100% from the Scilly Isles and the tip of the Cornish coast and at near 100% from most of Britain’s south west coast, on 11 August 1999. However, the words ‘fuck the eclipse’ should not be read as a direct comment from the artist about that particular eclipse. Shrigley has commented: ‘I think it would be fair to say it is a character speaking the words rather than me. Most of what is said in my drawings is said “in character”. None of it is autobiographical.’ (Email to the author, 21 July 2008.) He has further elucidated: ‘As an artist, I am ... playing a part. The narrator in my work is somebody other than me. It’s some crazed person who either over- or undermoralizes everything, and naturally, I expect people to understand that.’ (Quoted in Muntendorf, p.17.) One possible reading of the drawing is that it is a response to the media over-hype that surrounded the advent of the eclipse in south England in 1999. Although visible to all of Britain, those in the far north, such as Scotland, would have seen only a partial version.

Born in Macclesfield, England, Shrigley has lived in Glasgow, Scotland since he went there to study Sculpture and Environmental Art at the Glasgow School of Art in 1988 (BA hons, 1991). He makes drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures that are whimsically absurd and darkly humorous. Text is fundamental to his practice: his drawings are usually combined with handwritten text as a more or less oblique commentary on the image (see T12358, T12363 and T12364), or unevenly written (but generally correctly spelt) text functions as the work itself (T12362 and T12366). Shrigley’s photographs likewise frequently feature text of various kinds, playing on the many ways in which the written word functions as a link between the private and the public spheres of life. This includes such forms as public signage on roads and buildings (P79243), graffiti, newspaper headlines and the kind of notes that people put up in public places to advertise things. Crudely sketched in black, Shrigley’s drawings resemble doodles. His textual commentaries are cloaked in a similar false naivety projecting a comic idiot persona – the literary equivalent of a clown. Shrigley uses this voice to satirise the details of everyday life as affected by the community – moral judgements, truisms, obsessions, insecurities and paranoias abound. The artist’s sympathies lie with the individual struggling against the social body; artists’ books are his preferred forum for exhibition as they constitute an art form that is accessible to everybody. Poignant and shrewd, as well as surreal and funny, Shrigley’s words and images tap into moments of solitary reflection and intimate confession common to us all.

Further reading:
Maxwell Williams, ‘King of Books - David Shrigley: Interview by Maxwell Williams NYC’, October 2005, http://www.davidshrigley.com/articles/maxwell_williams.htm

, accessed 22 April 2008.
Caroline Muntendorf, ‘David Shrigley: Crooked Penmanship’, mono.kultur, no.9, December 2006/January 2007.
Neil Mulholland, ‘Interview with David Shrigley’, http://www.davidshrigley.com/articles/nm_interview.html

, accessed 15 February 2008.

Elizabeth Manchester
July 2008

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