David Shillinglaw’s work is a vibrant cacophony of words, colours and forms, with an energy so dynamic it almost sings. His works appear as colourful mind maps, charting the collective subconscious of deep emotion and lighter cultural realms.
The overall effect is a rounded look at the human mind - capable of both complex contemplation and joyful expression. The sense of fun is the vehicle here, drawing the viewer in to works that seem on first look to be entirely lighthearted and musical.
The colours have become more intense since his last show, with strong tones fighting for attention in works that are packed full of hues, lines and forms. Some of the colours appear to pop from the canvases with his signature turquoise again taking centre stage. The compositions are equally vibrant, jostling for the viewers gaze, with canvasses full to bursting with shapes and phrases, and many works bleeding into one another. On closer look, the nods to the more weighty sides of the mind become apparent, with existential references and an image of man, equally brilliant as we are lost. The works give off the outward appearance of many people themselves; fun and games above the surface, silently bubbling away underneath.
The onsite installations create a look at the mind of the artist himself, functioning as both artwork and studio view, with pieces of work, trinkets, collectibles and large swathes of furniture all melding into one. The work extends beyond the lines on canvas and becomes one with the mind and process of the artist. There are references to many previous works and exhibition titles in this show as well, looking at an entire body of work that is constantly developing one from the next. Even the soundtrack blasting above the heaving crowd on opening night fit with the work, everything beating to the same tempo.
Shillinglaw’s free working style makes it very difficult to categorise the work itself. In many ways it calls to mind the work of street artists - open, sprawling, large scale - and it doesn’t seem contrived or agonised, it looks like the impulsive workings of a genuinely unrestricted artist. But then there’s the references to modernist painting, the quality of lines and forms and the real attention to detail on the smaller pieces. Having this work on show in a Mayfair Gallery further draws this work into the realms of fine art, and away from the many cliches that modern street art finds itself throwing out. The artist’s lack of desire to strongly define this work adds another air of autonomy to the overall vibe. It comments on the fine art world, and the street art world, without the need to ‘belong’ to one camp. Just as it simultaneously references deep emotions and light culture. The work is one big look at the human mind, and the art world, as a whole. Humans are contradictions and the art world is a contradiction. This work looks at everything that it means to be a part of these worlds, and leaves it up to the viewer to decide how to label that.
David Shillinglaw: You Are Here will be running until the 28th April at Scream, 27/28 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8DH
Words by Emily Steer