The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

Tal­bot Rice Gallery, South Bridge, Ed­in­burgh 0131 650 2210 Un­til May 10 Tue-Sat 10am – 5pm

When En­rico David’s first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion, Ul­tra Paste, opened at the ICA in the au­tumn of last year, crit­ics were unan­i­mous in their ad­mi­ra­tion. “This is the kind of ex­hi­bi­tion that made the ICA fa­mous 50 years ago,” said The Guardian. “His per­verse wit has some­thing about it of early David Hock­ney and some­thing of Miss Jean Brodie.” Six months on, the ex­hi­bi­tion gets its only ma­jor non-Lon­don show­ing at Tal­bot Rice, al­low­ing Scot­tish view­ers to as­sess the im­pact of one of the UK’s most orig­i­nal young artists to have emerged in the last decade.

Born in An­cona on Italy’s east coast in 1966, En­rico David first came to the wider no­tice of the art world in 1999 when he cre­ated a se­ries of large-scale em­broi- dered works. Tal­bot Rice reg­u­lars may re­mem­ber one of th­ese from the 2006 sum­mer fes­ti­val pro­gramme, when David’s em­broi­dery was used as the cover im­age for the Girlpower and Boy­hood show. He has also re­cently mounted solo ex­hi­bi­tions at Trans­mis­sion, Glas­gow, and been ex­hib­ited at the Saatchi Gallery, the Venice Bi­en­nale and Tate Bri­tain.

David’s work in­cludes a strong sculp­tural el­e­ment. One of his more widely viewed works was the re­cent Tate Bri­tain sculp­ture, the much noted Chicken Man Gong, which mar­ried pub­lic sculp­ture with rit­u­al­is­tic sym­bol and was de­signed to be struck (or at­tacked) as a gong by Tate Bri­tain staff.

His lively, ques­tion­ing work, while based firmly in the art of draw­ing, is the­atri­cal, pur­posely fic­tional, edg­ily un­sta­ble, play­ful, crude and provoca­tive. “It re­acts to a world of hys­ter­i­cal cor­rect­ness and eti­quette that de­mands that we com­ply to so­cial nor­mal­ity,” says the Tal­bot Rice’s pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial.

David, in an in­ter­view with the Tate, said “draw­ing is the start­ing point for most of my work,” a body of work that in­ter­acts and draws on ex­ist­ing cul­tural codes, “from the ren­der­ing of a pho­to­graphic im­age to a more in­tu­itive, spon­ta­neous approach”. His bor­row­ing, stylis­ti­cally and tech­ni­cally, from tra­di­tional craft is an at­tempt to im­ple­ment an or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture on “the of­ten chaotic na­ture of my re­sponse to re­al­ity”. His artis­tic lan­guage is all about his “need for dis­con­ti­nu­ity, dis­rup­tion and mis­use,” which he places at the heart of his prac­tice.

So, what of Ul­tra Paste? The ti­tle work, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his child­hood bed­room reimag­ined through the veil of a 1935 photo mon­tage by Dora Maar, pic­tures a teenage David per­pe­trat­ing “a shame­ful act” on a man­nequin rep­re­sent­ing “trust­wor­thi­ness”, the viewer peer­ing in from the roped-off door­way.

Else­where, wildly elab­o­rate ti­tles hold the key to the works’ “mean­ing”. The self­evi­dent S***** Tantrum gouaches, in­clud­ing the evoca­tively ti­tled Mud­hippy, turns mother and two daugh­ters into ma­ture ched­dar. It’s part car­ni­val, part hys­teric, part rage, part in­san­ity – and all thrown to­gether in an orig­i­nal but his­tor­i­cally rooted style. In the words of one critic, he is “the anti-hero of art in our time.”

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