FT Foodies: David Shrigley

Artist David Shrigley, currently on show at the Hayward Gallery, trained as a fine artist but is known for his cartoons. Pass the Spoon, his “sort of opera” based around a cookery show, makes its London premiere next month.

Do you have a Proust’s Madeleine, something you eat that brings back instant memories?

I didn’t use to like curry – I’m not sure in what form my mother presented it, but it was widely known that I would not eat it. Then, when I was 18, I got a girlfriend from the other side of town and her family had several sets of cutlery for the different courses of a curry. I thought, “I’m out of my depth, I better eat this”, and I’ve been a fan of curry ever since.

What were your school dinners like?

Because home was so close by I went home at lunch to watch episodes of Murder, She Wrote. My mother would leave me a Pot Noodle and some bread. Findus Crispy Pancakes were another staple.

Are you a good cook?

Relative to the rest of the population, I’d say I’m above average. But relative to someone who is a good cook, I’d say I’m a six out of 10 at best.

Can chefs legitimately call themselves artists?

Yes – anyone who wishes to call themselves an artist has to be taken seriously as such. I suppose there is a difference between art and craft, and art is about creativity. I’ve been to Noma several times, I like things that look like really minimal abstract paintings on the plate – the smeared things and the spits of foam. But I’ve always made the mistake of going hungry – you need a bowl of pasta beforehand. I just made a print for René Redzepi – he asked if I’d make an etching for his staff, to give to them when they leave. Apparently I’m going to be paid in food.

Which cookery shows do you watch?

I like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but with the proliferation of TV channels one seems to watch the same things over and over again. You get to know the recipes verbatim. A cookery show has its own narrative, as does a recipe or a menu, so for the first long-form piece I’ve written I was conscious of needing a structure.

How did you assign characters to the fruits and vegetables in Pass the Spoon?

They’re created by the actors as much as myself. And Pass the Spoon is not really a satire, it’s very surreal. The banana became South American shortly before the first performance, and the egg is the pendulum depressive, up one minute and down the next. The root vegetables ended up as puppets because we couldn’t afford to get enough actors.

What would you choose for your last meal?

Something light. Pea and mint soup with white toast.

‘Pass the Spoon: A Sort-of-Opera’ by David Fennessy, David Shrigley and Nicholas Bone is at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, May 5 & 6

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