In reality, though, Shrigley is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. And though his work makes him seem reclusive, he’s very visible professionally, publishing a score of books through the U.K.’s Redstone Press, now available stateside from Chronicle Books. (Hurrah!)
I first discovered Shrigley in the museum store at London’s Tate Modern, through a mysterious little green book titled Blank Page and Other Pages. A web search revealed his increasingly prolific career. This guy has reimagined London’s tube map, designed expensive t-shirts for artsy Japanese label 2K, and contributed to countless other high-profile galleries and campaigns. (Even though he claims to have been born in 1912 and live in a 16th century castle on the banks of Loch Ness.)
Still, despite Shrigley’s ever-expanding fanbase, his work remains nervy and raw. (Honestly, the closest comparison I can think of is frequent Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood, but even that is a stretch.) Shrigley’s latest Chronicle rerelease, Who I Am And What I Want, is a slim, inexpensive volume of one-page cartoons.
Unlike many of his earlier collections, Who I Am And What I Want generally follows the theme suggested by the title. Charmingly egotistical, bizarre, and blunt, the book opens with Shrigley’s warning that this book is about him, and what he wants, not about you, the reader. From there, an illustrated list of demands follows, including “I want to be part of the inner workings and crushed to mush within them,” and “I want to wear their fur,” which finds the head of Shrigley’s cartoon alter ego superimposed upon a bat and a horse, with a helpful arrow pointing out the “mane.” Each page is a visual joke unto itself, but taken as a whole, a touching and absurd portrait of a character evolves throughout the book, creating a narrative flow not often found in Shrigley’s work.
As an introduction to Shrigley’s oeuvre, Who I Am And What I Want is a fine choice, though it’s hard to beat the funky design and heft of last year’s anthology, The Book of Shrigley. If you’re already a Shrigley fan, this is, of course, essential viewing.