James Green: You Are Still Here (3 stars)

James Green: You Are Still Here

Corn Exchange Gallery, Edinburgh, until Thu 10 Apr


John Merrick, otherwise known as ‘The Elephant Man’, is the unusual starting point for Royal College of Art graduate James Green’s first solo exhibition in Scotland. What from a distance appears an abstract sculptural installation is revealed to be a series of wall-mounted masks, each consisting of a different portrait of Merrick. Created from layers of card, Green creates the familiar impression of the subject’s head, embellishing his designs with jaunty patterns in psychedelic colours. While the masks are well crafted and visually interesting, they offer no commentary on Merrick’s sad existence.

The remainder of the exhibition comprises two large works made up of multiple, seemingly unrelated, drawn or collaged images presented in a grid format. The ‘History of the Rhondda’ references Green’s Welsh roots, while ‘A year in the life of . . .’ features images created every day since October 2006. Neither work offers a narrative for the viewer to follow, or seems to allow for any deeper insight, as they are too self-consciously rooted in Green’s cultural obsessions, which range from Audrey Hepburn and SpongeBob SquarePants to Lembit Opik and The Cheeky Girls.

Green’s style oscillates between naive, cartoon-like doodling and realistic observational drawing. While his illustrations are somewhat prosaic, Green’s collages successfully demonstrate his surreal imagination and sharp eye for design. He is adept at creating interesting juxtapositions and sometimes simply overlays a picture with a web of delicately patterned card tracery. These deserve a second look, if you can locate them within the mass of overwhelming pop imagery.

You Are Still Here

  • 3 stars

Artist James Green's first solo exhibition in Scotland looks back at the art of ancient cultures, and questions what future civilisations will discover through the study of the art that we leave behind.

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