This story is over 5 years old.


Meet Zeus, the Art World's Resident Pill Popper

If Damien Hirst did drugs...
Prescription Gallery

Dean 'Zeus' Coleman is an artist with one foot in the galley and the other firmly in the club. The Chelsea College of Art graduate and former graffiti don made his name in the late 80s and early 90s as the man behind numerous fantastic backdrops at some of the biggest clubs and raves around. He even taught Prince Charles how to wield a spray can.

His new exhibition, 'Pills', opening tomorrow at Brighton's Prescription Art gallery, is an examination of the link between commercial branding and the escape offered to clubbers through ecstasy. These oversized tablets are emblazoned with everything from Bart Simpson to Playboy bunnies in an attempt to analyse why the humble pill has become a site of creative expression.


In the week that an Irish loophole meant that ecstasy and other nefarious stimulants were briefly legal, Zeus' show is a timely reminder of the potent power of pocket-stuffed little pills. We spoke to the artist the morning before the grand opening.

Photo via

THUMP: How's it coming along? Are you still finishing stuff up?
ZEUS: Yeah, I'm always last minute. But I like the hanging and framing in gallery. We're looking to have fifty of these up on the wall. When you put them all together it's quite something. I mean pills are normally hidden in your pocket or come in little bags so seeing them like this really shows the kind of symbolic side of pill culture.

What do you mean by that?
Well basically I grew up doing graffiti in the 80s and started working at raves and big clubs in the 90s. I never took drugs at the time but I found it an interesting culture. Then I looked into what was on the pills, it was doves, Superman, all that. There ended up being a new one on the market every week. "You seen this new UPS one?" I suppose it reflects modern times, even within a culture that's supposed to be off the radar and kind of secret.

Who designs them in the first place?
Literally this came off the back of a show where I looked at sweets, and sweet art. I turned a whole gallery into a sweet shop. Then I thought about pills as modern day sweets - the sugar rush swapped for another kind of rush. I haven't really investigated who came up with putting the dove on the pill or something. I've not traced the origins. For me i'm into the visual side of things. Most of the things are about Rolls Royce, Rolex, aspirational images. They're about status You don't get a Lidl pill, do you?


Photo via

Is it dangerous to equate pills to sweets?
We live in a society of alcopops. Sugary alcohol. I'm sure the branding stuff is enticing. Branding anything is enticing. I'm not here to be a moralist saying drugs are good or bad .I've got fifty brands on these pills and I could do another hundred. The show is about how a counter culture thing has become normalised. They look like sweets but we know the dangers. People were taking them at times when you didn't know what was in them but we identified certain brands as being 'ok'. Just like sweets and E numbers.

You made the shamrock as a response to the Irish loophole…what's your take on that?
I like doing art for fun. OK, I know people have died from ecstasy but I also know people who are mates to this day from doing E together in clubs. I just made them for fun. The street art background I'm from has always been about having a laugh. I suppose the fact that we're selling these is funny. I live in Amsterdam now and I had to bring over a suitcase full of pills. I got some funny looks. The whole thing of art and play, you feel sometimes like the art world is…put it this way, in the art world the relationship between the gallerist, the dealer, the artist, and the person who buys has definite parallels with drug dealing.

Read more about Ireland's nearly-over free for all on drugs here

Whats more fun: the art world or clubland?
I would say clubland, because at least when you take something you know you're going off somewhere. The art world is different. There's not as much euphoria!

Pills opens at Prescription Art in Brighton from March 13. Each pill is available in an edition of 10, and comes framed and fully hand-made and hand-painted for only £150. Head here for more information on the exhibition and to get your hands on one of them.