28 March 2012
By Michael Holland
Much fun is to be had at the Hayward Gallery where exhibitions by two of Britain’s best contemporary artists are showing side by side.
On entry the first one you encounter is Jeremy Deller’s Joy in People, which walking through is actually like taking a journey through the artist’s life. You find yourself in a mock-up bedroom with the usual accoutrements of a young, single man: posters, photos of nights out, clothes hanging randomly, though on closer investigation you see that all the artefacts have been made specifically for the installation.
Deller takes the norm and subverts it to his own idea of norm, but always with a comic twist rather than a dark undertone. He makes light of social unrest by re-enacting the miners’ battles with police with proper war re-enactment fans; creates huge banners for marches that he himself organises but which have a lighter message than those we have come to expect, he popularises popular culture in a way that makes the viewer smile.
Deller never trained at art school and there are many references to Tracy Emin’s work (bedroom and large sewn banners), and Paul Burkett, the art collector I went with, asked who came first. Who cares? I say. This art should never be taken too seriously, merely enjoyed.
David Shrigley’s Brain Activity sits very nicely alongside the Deller show, as he too takes the commonplace and gives them a distorted meaning. There is a note pinned to a tree asking for the whereabouts of a missing animal, but it is a pigeon (Mangy) not a cat that he describes in the note; a stuffed dog stands holding a placard telling viewers ‘I Am Dead’; a rough drawing of a skeleton with the text ‘Goodbye’ all go towards making the audience
This is a fun exhibition of two artists that have taken today’s Britain and taken out the moaning on the streets and the misery shown on the daily news; they tell us that life isn’t that bad here after all. I felt better from seeing it.
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