“Shrigley’s world has something ridiculous to offer everyone.” Holly Black finds some serious laughs in a black-and-white universe full of chaos and confusion.

A drawing of a rearing horse screaming “Fuck you all!” is not necessarily what you would expect from a publication titled Fully Coherent Plan for a New and Better Society, but then again, David Shrigley is not known for adhering to the rules. His distinct style of scratchy sketching sits somewhere between the scrawls of a demonic child and prophetic toilet stall graffiti, and he freely satirizes everything from economics and taxation to the notion of national identity in his latest book.


The narrative is split into eleven chapters featuring reasonably run-of-the-mill headings such as Power and Politics and the more subversive Dirt and Society, but this is pretty much the extent of any real coherence. Shrigley bounces between doom-laden images of stick men walking over cliff edges (accompanied by the phrase “normal behaviour”) and sinking ships, and surprisingly optimistic sketches of rising suns and apparently delicious fruits.

“One of Shrigley’s greatest abilities as an artist is to create resoundingly funny work while also offering wry political commentary”

On first glance this barrage of black-and-white imagery is characteristically almost impossible to comprehend and is far removed from the artist’s promise “for a new and better society where everything is coherent and makes a lot of sense and nothing is confusing or awful”. This rambling assurance is, of course, a joke within itself, but the more you surrender to this strange universe of non-sequiturs, the more it begins to make sense. Shrigley has an uncanny ability to distill the zeitgeist, and at present the world feels like a chaotic place, where billionaire TV stars run national superpowers and our brains feel fit to explode after hours of relentless internet scrolling. He recreates this madness, while maintaining an edge of fantastic banality. It is all so unsettlingly close to home.

One of the Turner Prize nominee’s greatest abilities as an artist is to create resoundingly funny work while also offering wry political commentary, in a fashion that is so thoroughly bizarre that it never fails to surprise. In the past he has created sad, upside-down snowmen and fake “for sale” signs in the middle of rivers, as well as damning cartoons of politicians and the 2016 Fourth Plinth commission, which saw a giant thumbs-up cast in bronze and erected in Trafalgar Square (though it can be read sarcastically, the artist has always claimed that it was ultimately an optimistic exercise).

In this book he marries disparate doodles with some of this more direct sociopolitical commentary. For example, his written lists highlight real, urgent issues such as police violence, before descending into farce: “Permitted hairstyles: almost everything is permitted at the present time, but this will be reviewed.” There are some brilliantly mad and time-specific pictures, including a gremlin-like monster receiving its Royal Wedding invitation, which hold a particularly British sensibility. That being said, Shrigley’s world has something to offer everyone. Though the exact reason why a group of anthropomorphized apples marching happily to their deaths made me laugh ultimately remains a mystery.

All images from Fully Coherent Plan for a New and Better Society by David Shrigley

Fully Coherent Plan for a New and Better Society by David Shrigley

Out 3 May 2018, published by Canongate

Don't miss out.
Get the latest from Elephant straight to your inbox and 20% off your first purchase.
Sign me up!
You can unsubscribe anytime.