Adam Dant's latest drawings represent a culmination of his previous work – his Hogarthian satires of London life, his interest in cartography and ornate visual puns, his 'ye olde' stylistic references. Entitled 'From the Library of Dr London', this exhibition features nine large, trompe-l'oeil pictures of open books, with each double-page spread containing one of the world's great cities personified in the form of a diagram – the title piece, for example, featuring the main thoroughfares of London depicted as a Medieval-style medical illustration of the human digestive tract, with Whitehall as the oesophagus and Whitechapel as the rectum. Istanbul is portrayed as a sea-figure whose nerve pathways are ferry-routes, while the Tokyo metro map becomes an orgy of erotically cavorting, woodcut-style characters.
It's all very witty and clever, certainly. And the ink drawings themselves are technical triumphs, with the book pages looking suitably worn and crinkled, while miniature scenes or other heraldic devices decorate the borders. And yet, for all its intricacy and ingenuity, the project as a whole feels disappointing. Too often, the conceits, whimsical to begin with, simply feel arbitrary – such as the phrenological cranium containing a London map, which lacks any corresponding psychological key.
Some works are more successful: Monaco caricatured as a reclining Picasso nude, all languorous luxury, or Zurich as a medieval-inspired hell-mouth, fed on lucre – where Dant is making specific, socially satirical points.