Photo by Victor Frankowski
Over the years we’ve been privileged to feature the work of some incredible local talent on our covers. This month we’re especially excited to have been given this illustration, unmistakably the work of Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley, to introduce our festival issue.
Brighton resident David is, of course, the Guest Director for this year’s Brighton Festival (5th – 27th May). “I was quite surprised to be asked,” he tells us. “I felt like I was in rather prestigious company.” He has curated a selection of events for the Festival, spanning visual arts, music and literature. “I had the opportunity to make a performance piece [Problem in Brighton, at The Old Market, 10th – 12th May] which is something I’ve always really wanted to do. I’ve done musical things before, in terms of writing lyrics, but I haven’t really directed anything. I’ve also made the musical instruments – there are seven electric guitars that I’ve designed and some other instruments as well – so it’s going to be quite a curious piece, but hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Another of David’s events, Life Model II (until 28th May), will see Fabrica transformed into a life-drawing classroom, centred around a nine-foot-tall female mannequin. “She’s quite weirdly proportioned,” he explains, “which, as a person who studied life drawing at art college and wasn’t very good at it, is sort of my revenge, because even if you are good at life drawing the finished piece is still going to look badly proportioned. The joy of the exhibition is that it encourages people to make drawings, and not necessarily feel that they have to be good at drawing. It’s for everybody.”
The Festival has always been an opportunity to open up the arts to audiences who might not usually take part, and to inspire young people to follow their creative passions. David talks about the importance of those early formative experiences in his own life: “my family was not interested in the arts at all,” he says. “I don’t think I even knew there was such a career as being an artist, but I remember going to see an exhibition at what was the Tate Gallery - I guess I was about 14. It was Jean Tinguely, a Swiss kinetic sculptor, and it was a really amazing show of all these machines that he’d made, which made sounds and drawings, and for me that was a real eye-opener. I wanted to do something like that and I wanted to make something like that. It was a real moment at which I decided, I was probably never going to be a professional footballer, I was going to be an artist.”
“I think my parents were probably quite disappointed that I wanted to go to art school,” he says. “I’m from a fairly modest background, so they always felt that working hard and having a career and making a living was the most important thing, and they couldn’t see how I could do that as an artist. To be fair to them, it never really occurred to me that I could make a living either. It turned out alright in the end.”
So what advice does he have for this year’s graduating artists? “Do what you want to do. A lot of people will tell you that you shouldn’t pursue this, but if you’re an artist, whether you’re a musician or a writer or a filmmaker, you’ve just got to do it, and eventually, somehow, you’ll find a way of making a living out of it.”