Heads Up: David Shrigley: Brain Activity

Art? It ain't started till the ambitious banana sings

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

The first major UK show of artist David Shrigley's work, displayed over the upper floors of the Hayward Gallery.

Elevator Pitch

Brain teasers: comic art rises to the top.

Prime Movers

David Shrigley, 43, a Glaswegian artist best known for his acerbic, amusing, absurdist drawings, text and animations.

The Stars

The works themselves – of which there are some 175, ranging from short films and animations, to caustic cartoons, paintings and photographs, and a series of stuffed animals. He'll be responding directly to the venue with a new work for the sculpture terrace, and a large wall painting.

The Early Buzz

With his accessible, funny, even crude approach, Shrigley isn't everyone's cup of tea – or idea of an "artist" – so it's already caused a little bit of fuss. In this paper, Charles Darwent wrote, "No year would be complete without a smattering of Young [sic] British Artists ... Most contentiously, David Shrigley will be given the run of the Hayward Gallery's upper floors ... Shrigley's faux-naive cartoons and stuffed Jack Russells divide critical opinion, some seeing him as a witty subverter of daily life, others merely as a bad comic with ideas above his station." It's clear which side The Telegraph's Richard Dorment is on: "Even when you are laughing at the jokes in Shrigley's dry, understated drawings, you recognise some small and usually unpalatable truth about yourself."

Insider Knowledge

Shrigley is also branching out into "sort-of opera": Pass the Spoon will be staged on 5 and 6 May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Created with composer David Fennessy and director Nicholas Bone, it features singing vegetables, a giant butcher, an ambitious banana and panic-stricken celebrity chefs.

It's great that...

His animation The Letter – in which a hand pens an absence note to Mrs Teacher – will be projected on the outside of the Royal Festival Hall after dusk for a fortnight, starting 13 February.

It's a shame that...

The title of one of the "sculptures" is literal: Five Years of Toenail Clippings really is a glass sphere containing said years' worth of toenail clippings. Yeuch.

Hit Potential

Some may turn their noses up – but then the Hayward may also find that the show has an appeal beyond regular gallery-goers.

The Details

David Shrigley: Brain Activity is at the Hayward Gallery, London SE1 (southbankcentre.co.uk), 1 February to 13 May .

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