Lest Bogles Catch Him Unawares: Elph versus Robert Burns
Back-street dives in concrete jungles have long been the preserve of graffiti art, where sprayed-on masterpieces can liven up the breeze-block one day, only to be whitewashed over the next. Such, alas, is the ephemeral, fly-by-night nature of the pop cultural condition. Just ask Banksy. Better still, ask Elph, Edinburgh’s premiere spray-can auteur of some 20 years standing, who here moves indoors to a suitably off-the-beaten-track locale, for the visual equivalent of an urban sound-clash between himself and Scotland’s national bard.
The result is a series of comic-book extrapolations of archetypes inspired by the great man’s finest works. While two walls concentrate on smaller pieces, the other two are given over to a tableaux of large-scale canvases taken from ‘Tam O’Shanter’ which, while able to stand alone, together make up a giant narrative frieze. As the action spills out of the frame and onto the wall with the fit-and-she-knows-it Cutty Sark giving Tam’s mare Meg a kick round the corner, thus eliciting a speech-bubbled ‘Ooyah!,’ the wall becomes more diorama than backdrop.
While Burns has been much hi-jacked by lairy parochialists in kilts for this year’s so-called Homecoming, here, as with dub reggae guru Adrian Sherwood and artist Graham Fagen’s reclamation, not to mention the meeting of minds between Burns and Iggy Pop in punk show-band The Bum Clocks, he’s frankly a bit of a dude.
Henderson Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Jun