A wander around David Shrigley's Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, London

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As someone who has enjoyed David Shrigley's work for a few years now, it is quite a thrill to pass this original new sign on the way to my work, clearly visible from the bus crossing Waterloo Bridge. It's a thrill because it heralds the arrival of Shrigley's largest exhibition to date, the major retrospective Brain Activity....

I know a lot of people interested in the sort of music featured on this site will be interested in this exhibition. David Shrigley is a well known supporter of non-mainstream music and the last time I saw him in person he was DJ-ing to a small early evening crowd in the Rough Trade Shop near Brick Lane, and some of his works have graced the sleeves of the likes of Deerhoof and Malcolm Middleton.
I was delighted to see that the cover of Middleton's 'A Brighter Beat' (a Shrigley photo entitled Balloon) is on display here.
As I climbed the stairs to the upper galleries where the exhibition begins I followed the sound of a drummer playing fills that could fit on any album by the Fall or the Oh Sees. The intitial effect is disorientating, as you enter via a room full of some of his sculptures that play with our sense of scale, such as the tiers of ceramic boots. I found that drummer around the corner; he was animated and he was headless and filled a whole wall.
It was curious that something so rowdy should introduce the section of the exhibition centred around death, but then the gravestone made me laugh, and that doesn't usually happen either. The cute Jack Russell terrier is in this room too, announcing 'I'm Dead' by means of a helpful placard.

I should issue my personal disclaimer that this is a music blog and I don't pretend to be any expert on art, but I can spot the influences of artists like Duchamp, Baldesarri and Magritte on Shrigley's work. I've no idea about Shrigley's relationships with other artists, but his animation Light Switch in which a finger flicks a switch over and over is surely a nod to Martin Creed's Turner Prize winning 'The Lights going on and off.'
I am most familiar with Shrigley's drawings and animations, but there is a lot of sculpture here and the entrance to the wall of colour paintings is through an iron gate which carries the instruction, "Do Not Linger At The Gate." A common theme throughout his work is that sense of instruction - his early photograph of the Clyde Auditorium, or Glasgow's “Armadillo” is here, complete with the cheeky sign that reads "Ignore this Building".
A lot of the other sculpture is misshapen, or it deliberately places life-sized objects beside distorted, abnormal things, such as a taxidermy squirrel holding it's own detached head like a nut. The bronze Swords and Daggers were apparently carved in wax with a potato peeler to give them an imperfect look, before being cast in bronze. On the wall beyond the large display of mis-shapes a selection of even more unusual drawings pass along his animated Conveyer Belt.

A lot of his familiar drawings deal with relationships, some dysfunctional, some unusual. I hadn't seen his short animation New Friends until this exhibition, but it summarises things nicely.

It's very rare that I walk around the Hayward Gallery with a broad smile on my face, so this exhibition was a first in that respect. I wasn't terribly engaged with the large floor display of insects but that was my only grumble, and I think people who have complained that a lot of these works have been seen before have missed the bit that says this exhibition is a retrospective! The wall of drawings was my personal highlight and is well worth a re-visit. When you have done with the main exhibition hang around in the foyer for a listening post and a chance to hear all of the Worried Noodles CD and the exclusive 7" single that comes with the official exhibition book. One side is a chaotic indie-clatter with the artist himself shouting "This is my house!!" a lot, the other side is a humourous story about a monkey, told as a surreal "Do you remember when?" tale.

The exhibition is on until the 13th May and you should all go. I'll even come with you as I am a member of the gallery. Tickets and more information can be found at http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/david-shrigley

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