Exhibitions

Dant on Drink: Drawings about Drinking in Britain

Adam Dant
25 November 2010 - 8 January 2011

Adam Dant, British Drinking 2010 (detail)

Private View: Wednesday 24 November, 6-9pm

Hales Gallery is pleased to announce Adam Dant's second solo show at the gallery, Dant on Drink: Drawings about Drinking in Britain.

Dant makes lavish and richly layered drawings which take the viewer on an inventive and imaginative visual journey. His subjects are always meticulously researched and the resulting works take many forms including maps, charts and visual allegories. The elaborate scenes he depicts are often located in recognisable spaces, places and institutions.

In four large narrative tableaux, Dant depicts the politics, language, history and environment of the nation's very particular relationship with 'the bottle', exploring the way in which the news media use representations of contemporary 'Binge Drinking Britain' as a convenient vessel to be filled with the wider themes of social improvement and change, political progress and the general health of the nation.

The seemingly dense and sprawling visual narrative of Dant's work often belies the carefully considered structure beneath. A flowchart linking the various historical figures and drinks logos in his drawing, The Fight between Temperance and Liquor, underpins this boisterous scene much in the same way that generations of received ideas, common history and hidden national neuroses may well lie beneath the media's image of 'Binge Britain'. The Fight between Temperance and Liquor also transforms and modifies its real location, Walsall Town Centre, in such a manner that the whole scene becomes a contemporary reworking of Bruegel's 1559 painting The Battle between Carnival and Lent. Amongst recognisable landmarks such as the statue of 'Sister Dora' and the town's much loved hippo sculpture, birds, beasts and characters from alcoholic drinks labels battle with the protagonists of the temperance movement. A flock of 'Famous Grouse' boldly peck away at 'The Band of Hope' whilst the 'Babycham' bambi cruelly de-bags Margaret Bright-Lucas (1818-1890), president of 'The British Women's Temperance Association'.
The sepia ink drawing British Drinking depicts the chaotic and Bruegelesque 'booze-fests' that regularly take place on the streets outside the artist's studio in Shoreditch, London. Whilst showing all variety of excess and diversion, this panorama of inebriation constitutes an extensive glossary of figures of speech used to describe states of drunkenness. Revelers are depicted literally 'trolleyed', 'trashed' and 'snookered' whilst others enact more antiquated synonyms as with the gentleman who has 'seen the French King' or another who is 'bit by a barn weasel'.

Royal Drinking catalogues the traditional attachment of the British royal line to alcohol. A grand procession passes before a view of Buckingham Palace draped with the logos of the many drinks brands who boast royal approval. The parade stretches from William the Conqueror and his alcohol only diet to the young princes, William and Harry, and their preferred tipple, the 'the crack baby' cocktail. The parade of bibulous monarchs wends its way around a fountain filled with 'empties' overseen by a statue of Queen Victoria who is depicted as an enormous female Bacchus.
The title of the drawing Bread and Circuses refers to the Ancient Roman political tool whereby the common man is made passive and unaware of his civic duty by the 'consolations' of both. The pitched auditorium of the coliseum contains a chronology of British repositories of alcoholic drink from Tavern to Tesco. Unlike the other 3 drawings in this overview of British drinking culture, the arena here is empty of drinkers suggesting prohibition,