Enrico David: Ultra Paste (2 stars)

Enrico David

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 10 May


It’s hard to believe the ejaculatory inference of the title of this exhibition is unintended, because the whole purpose of ‘Ultra Paste’ (the show’s key work) seems to be a re-imagining of teenage sexual awakening as viewed through the filter of the artist’s memory.

A roped-off white cube sits in the centre of the gallery, its interior showing a life-sized, grid-walled approximation of David’s youthful bedroom informed by a 1935 photo-collage by Picasso’s muse Dora Maar. Next to a dimly-lit bed and alcove, can be glimpsed a collaged image of what we are told is the artist at 11 years old, rubbing sexually against ‘an exasperated old lady’. Yet the stated conceit that the figure’s height reveals his age is offset by the manly proportions of his body, while the ‘old lady’ is a wooden mannequin in crucified pose.

David’s accompanying statement rather convolutedly plays on his and the work’s relationship with nostalgia and memory, boldly pondering whether ‘any of this will be delivered with enough clarity or adequacy of intentions, either to myself or anyone else.’ The work suggests not. The force of structural consideration that David’s words implies seems to be absent from a flimsily realised work.

Just as the abstract junk sculptures of ‘Resolved through aids’ and ‘Sodulator’ are designed to reflect Arte Povera, so the 20-part gouache ‘play’ of ‘Shitty tantrum’ – a series of irreverent storyboards with no discernible narrative throughout – is far more pleasingly representative of the artist’s bad taste and magpie-like humour, particularly with amusing titles such as ‘The fake kidnap’ and ‘A theatre of the tolerated’. On the whole, though, this is closer to the Emperor’s new semen-stained clothes than any kind of ecstasy.

Enrico David

  • 2 stars

Gouaches, photography and large canvases sit alongside sculpture of varying scale by the Italian artist, with clear links to an uncompromising, bold Italian design tradition.

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