Don't underestimate the talented Mr David Shrigley

He's up for the Turner Prize, and is a Fourth Plinth finalist. Karen Wright meets an artist with a sense of fun

When the Turner Prize list was announced this year it was met with mild indifference. With the international art-world darling Tino Sehgal on the list, the outcome seemed almost a foregone conclusion. David Shrigley's inclusion – he was nominated by a judge, Ralph Rugoff, for his show at the Hayward where Rugoff is director – seemed almost an afterthought.

Yet when I checked the official odds at the announcement Ladbrokes gave Shrigley 2/1 odds of winning the award. Not long afterwards Shrigley appeared on the international shortlist for the Fourth Plinth competition and quickly became a favourite. His Really Good, a bronze cast of a hand with an out-of-proportion thumb raised 10 metres high is, he hopes, something that "would make Trafalgar Square, London, the UK and the world a better place".

I meet Shrigley, who is boyish of mien, at the cooperative Glasgow Sculpture Studios where he works. He whisks me upstairs into his space, dominated today by what he fondly refers to as "the man", a pink and very naked robot, a component of his forthcoming Turner Prize exhibition.

"Do you want to see the robot in action? He blinks and pees at random intervals." The man finally urinates (clear water: as Shrigley says "he is well hydrated"), and we settle to talk about his life in Glasgow, a city that, he says, has evolved since 1991 when he graduated with a 2.2 from the Glasgow School of Environmental Art. (I mention the 2.2 as Shrigley continually brings up this grade in interview.) "When I graduated I did not know what I wanted to do next. I did not know you could have a career as an artist. There was an exhibition called Windfall by Douglas Gordon, Christine Borland, among others, who took an unused building down by the Clyde, a bit like the Freeze exhibition, and that seemed exciting.

Shrigley's work was different from that of his peers. Funny was not something that was encouraged. As Penelope Curtis, (director of Tate Britain and on the Turner Prize jury) said, obviously feeling the need to defend Shrigley's inclusion on the Turner Prize list, "just because it's funny, it doesn't mean it's not good."

Deliberately clumsy, and frequently including mistakes and crossings-out, Shrigley's drawings and signs are instantly recognisable and always witty. He points at a sign "Honesty, accuracy, Shrigley", and says "That used to be above my studio door. I like signage and missives." He has pragmatic answers for my questions. "I don't have a manifesto for my body of work. When I am making a work or a drawing I am filling a page and when it is full I am finished. It is just a process." He is a good self-editor, he says, prepared to throw away drawings that don't work, ripping them up into "teeny-weeny" pieces so that they can't be recycled.

Sculpture has appeared more frequently in recent years. An immersion blender, of the sort used to make soup, sits on the floor: "We use them for mixing glazes for the ceramics," he explains, and points at a group of colourful shoes that will be the focus of a forthcoming show in Berlin. The shoes, he says, "are not really shoes, they are representations of shoes" and will be shown with bronze faeces that are presently being cast.

He does his "drawing and thinking" in his flat in Glasgow's West End, "I need to keep the drawings clean. The ceramics I make here create a lot of dust".

He shares his flat with his wife Kim and a miniature schnauzer, Inka. I ask if she will be immortalised, as per his frequently reproduced work of a stuffed terrier carrying a sign reading "I'm dead", and he sighs, "people don't realize that there are rules on taxidermy".

Born in Macclesfield in 1968, Shrigley enjoys living in Glasgow, admitting "I found it exotic when I first arrived, having grown up in Leicester", despite the "truly shocking" weather. "Glasgow is big enough to do what you want to do"; there is a community of artists and an independent music scene, and it's easier to live in than London, he says. "I never go to art openings; I prefer instead to have music as the centre of my social life." When he was younger he played in bands, and he has collaborated with Blur and, more recently, Franz Ferdinand. He also wrote the libretto for Pass the Spoon, a "sort of opera" about cooking. "When I was asked, I thought 'I will work with good people and they will make sure that my contribution is not shit!'"

Despite the breadth and unmistakable popularity of Shrigley's work, he admits "I think a lot of people who like my work don't see it as fine art. They see it as illustration or comic." I ask if this is difficult in relation to other Turner Prize nominees, and he replies, "When I asked Stephen Friedman [Shrigley's gallerist] if he should accept the nomination, he said it would be good for business, so I did. I have had the Hayward show ... My attitude to work is that unless you say yes, the moment will pass."

But after all there is an overarching self-critic in Shrigley: "I focus on the process and I don't think of the end result, but of course there is quality control, as I want the work to be engaging and entertaining."

And then, just when I think he is being too earnest, out comes the Shrigley wit again, "My criteria for making any artwork is that it is not shit."

The Turner Prize is at Ebrington in Derry-Londonderry as part of UK City of Culture 2013 (cityofculture2013.com) 23 October to 5 January 2014; the Fourth Plinth Shortlist exhibition, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London W1 (stmartin-in-the-fields.org) to 17 November

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect