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Donald Urquhart

Listen To The Wine

04.09.04 ­ 03.10.04

Private view 04.09.04 18.30 ­ 20.30

Millers Terrace is pleased to present new work by Donald Urquhart.

Listen to the Wine is an exhibition of Donald Urquhart's new work, featuring eight ink drawings and a wall painting. The drawings are about the associated hedonism, hilarity, heartache and drama of drinking and the revelations from the nonsense of intoxicated conversation.

Donald Urquhart¹s drawings originally functioned as club decor of his now infamous club night The Beautiful Bend. The night incorporated performance, cabaret, strippers and drag. Often drawn directly onto the wall these drawings and fliers subverted historical motifs and popular iconography, such as Victoriana, comic strips, Goya, homosexual eroticism, Nazis and the original source of the title of this show, Mary Poppins.

In P. L. Travers¹ third Mary Poppins book; Mary Poppins Opens the Door, a Greek statue that has come to life describes existence in mythical Greece; "By day they watch the red-sailed ships going in and out of the bay. And at night they listen to the wine-dark waters that break on the shore below,² In his wall drawing Urquhart takes a look at carousers drowning in those very wine-dark waters.

'Nocturnal Animal' is an ink drawing of an unusual rodent caught sneaking around at night, like a performance in the twighlight hours. 'The Last of the Romanoffs' is a drawing of a drag queen Urquhart once knew. Sharing the name with a particularly cheap and noxious brand of vodka, she tragically drank herself to death.

Urquhart¹s new work neither condemns nor lauds the effects of too much alcohol, but merely asks you, when in your drunken fugue, to remember to Listen to the Wine.

Donald Urquhart, born 1963, Dumfries, Scotland.
Writer, artist, performer Donald Urquhart moved to London in 1984. A friend and contemporary of Leigh Bowery, Urquhart was regularly getting dragged-up by the late '80s, this led one way or another to the creative tour-de-forcethat was 'The Beautiful Bend', a club which he ran through the '90s with co-horts Sheila Tequila and DJ Harvey. The resulting artwork from The Beautiful Bend has previously been shown at Magnani, London, Publish and Be Damned (Cubitt), and Portikus, Frankfurt in a three man show curated by Wolfgang Tillmans earlier this year.

Millers Terrace, 19 Millers Terrace, London E8 2DP, 0781 333 9225,

Donald Urquhart on 'Listen to the Wine'.

You know the kind of things you say when you're drunk? "The Scissor Sisters are the new Frankie Goes To Hollywood"; "I love You"; "I always HATED your piercings."; "Why is my potato gratin not as good as my Mum's?"; "I AM Woody Allen." And this, which came out only last night: "Do you believe in God?" [pause] ~"I certainly do..." [Longer pause] "...otherwise I couldn't possibly be a devil."
Well, 'Listen to the Wine' will I hope provoke much similar pub talk and conversations through which some people may arrive at revelations. A lot will talk nonsense despite everything, and a lot of talk will be "through drink". But listen. Listen to people when they talk after they've had a drink. They might talk rubbish for a bit, and then something brilliant and clear might come out. Maybe a secret, perhaps a truth?
As I write this there are drunks walking and talking past my house. Maybe one of them was you?
'Listen to the Wine' is about alcohol, the glamour and drama, the melancholy, spite, vitriol, humanity, and hilarity. It's about everything and nothing. Alcohol is a massive part of our culture (Britain is the 12th most drinkingest industrialised nation), and has played a major role in the development of the arts. It has ever been thus. I do not seek to explain anything about alcohol nor do I want to sermonise on its evils. I am just showing drawings on a theme of alcohol.
The title comes from P.L.Travers' "Mary Poppins Opens the Door" although it has nothing to do with Mary Poppins. I hate to explain:
There are five Mary Poppins books. The third, 'Mary Poppins Opens the Door", is really the last one as the other two are set roughly between the first and third books. Travers explains in the introduction to the fourth book: "This is a word of warning to anybody who may be expecting they are in for a fourth visit. She cannot forever arrive and depart. And, apart from that, it should be remembered that three is a lucky number."
Now don't go thinking that I'm fixated by Mary Poppins (my show last year at Magnani was called "A Present from the Zoo" which was a quote from the first book), though I do read the books again and again, but the title of this show, 'Listen to the Wine', is a quote from 'Mary Poppins Opens the Door' (chapter four: "The Marble Boy", p.112), where the Marble Boy, Neleus (a statue-come-to-life from the park), is telling Poppins and the Banks children about life in mythological Greece:
" By day they watch the red-sailed ships going in and out of the bay. And at night they listen to the wine-dark waters that break on the shore below,"
When I re-read that passage about a year ago I fell through a door. It was that "wine-dark" thing that shook me first and then I heard the phrase "listen to the wine" resound. Do you listen to the wine? I mean do you listen to what people express through alcohol? Have you seen "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"? I have even seen it on the stage in Catalan -about which I know "rien". But you should have seen what they did with it in Barcelona. They had Nuria Espert playing Martha and she (no stranger to playing 'Prima Donna') stole the whole thing. Have you seen "Opening Night"? That's about booze.
I later discovered that Travers had taken the "wine-dark waters" verbatim from Homer. I hope that she was trying to open a door to Homer for younger readers.
That's what 'The Beautiful Bend' was trying to do a lot of the time (see website); fuse different cultural elements, cross-refer between different periods; introduce people to new things even if they're old. Cross Sylvia Plath with a potting shed, meld Goya with Bollywood, and put Anne Frankenstein in a health spa for chocoholics. The Bend was very didactic.
Do you know what I mean when I say I fell through a door? Am I sounding like Diana Vreeland? I fell through a door one night when I saw an ex boyfriend for the first time two weeks after we had split up. I was drunk in a nightclub and on my own swaying at the edge of a crowded dancefloor. Right in the middle of this heaving crowd a disco light flitted across his head and I saw his EAR. I didn't catch a glimpse of anything else of him after that fleeting moment, but I knew he was there and I was highly alarmed. I won't tell you why, but let's just say I fell through the floor. I did run into him later on and all was fine with a whiff of la tragique.
"Opening Night", the film by John Cassavetes starring his amazing wife Gina Rowlands has this horrific scene where the Rowlands character (an alcoholic actress) comes crashing through the door of an hotel room. Smashing into the wall, she loses a lens from her sunglasses and cuts her face. You can't watch that scene and imagine it was faked-up using a stunt double or trick shots. She's really slamming herself into the doorframe, thrashing around the hall like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist". Of course, a dead girl is haunting her but there's a lot more going on than that. Do you know what? I've actually been through that exact experience in real life. Well an artificial version of. In drag but without the dead girl haunting me. The film is better.
In 'Listen to the Wine' I hope to show something of the wonderful horror of alcohol, and also open a door to the world of Ensor through my painting 'Dark Waters' which is inspired by his "The Baths at Ostend" 1890. In it you will see people seemingly drowning in a sea of alcohol. If any of you have known me for a while you will know of my recitals of "The Ether Dive" (1995) which referred to Ensor's "The Entry of Christ into Brussels". Here I am again Ensor saluting you, that's all I can say.

Donald Urquhart 2004.

Listen to the Wine



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