Lest Bogles Catch Him Unawares: Elph versus Robert Burns (3 stars)

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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

Lest Bogles Catch Him Unawares: Elph versus Robert Burns

  • 3 stars

Hot from successful shows in London, New York and Berlin with fellow heroes of the street scene (Banksy, Adam Neade and Connor Harrington), Edinburgh's own street artist Elph will examine his relationship with Scotland's national poet. His work will include pieces hanging in the gallery, and a variety of tags and…

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