Insane in the Brain

February 29th, 2012 by Mat Dolphin

Fancy seeing an exhibition featuring some stunningly rendered illustration work? Want to check out some beautiful and delicate sculpture? In the mood for some elegant, balanced typography? If you are, we would advise you to steer clear of London’s Haywood Gallery until the middle of May. They’re currently showing Brain Activity, the first major UK solo show by Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley. Being big fans of his work, we checked it out last weekend and whilst we can confirm you won’t be seeing any of above, you will see a fantastic mix of interesting, bemusing, weird, thought-provoking and utterly hilarious drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture and animations. Thankfully, the opportunity to exhibit old and new work on a large scale in such an established gallery space hasn’t tempted Shrigley to stray from his signature style; a combination of crude, cack-handed imagery that effortlessly walks the line between ridiculous visual puns and abstract, emotive poignancy.

It’s quite a rare thing to hear people laughing in an art gallery and a lot of Shrigley’s work does make you wonder why more art isn’t funny. Is there a reason it shouldn’t be? Perhaps its the fear that adding humour to a piece of art will rob it of the ability to articulate it’s message? Maybe artists struggle to be taken seriously if their work is crude and makes you giggle a bit? We don’t know the answers and we don’t particularly care. Brain Activity is at once happy, sad, bizarre and incredibly amusing, which is not something we can say about many other exhibitions we’ve seen recently.

If pretty pictures are your thing, this probably isn’t for you (maybe try David Hockney at the Royal Academy). However, if you want to have a good laugh seeing art that inspires and somehow makes you think, you could do a lot worse than Shrigley at the Hayward. On a related point, there is a rather interesting article and comments debate regarding the introverted and self referential nature of ‘graphic artists’ on the CR blog at the moment, which is well worth a read before going along to make your mind up.

Brain Activity is showing at the excellent Hayward Gallery until May 13th, read a great review here and buy tickets here.

Thanks for reading.

Phil & Tom

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