John Dolan had been homeless on the streets of London for 20 years. His first show focused on his detailed architectural studies in pen and ink that were totally incongruous to his situation. Street artists from all over the world were invited to collaborate with him by working directly onto his drawn cityscapes.
For John Dolan’s second exhibition he focuses on his unique relationship with his dog George and tells the story of how George enabled him to turn his life around with his art. George is credited as the catalyst that helped him turn his life around and establish himself as an artist. He is like a modern day Hogarth in many ways. The story is also soon to be the subject of an autobiographical book which is being published by Random House on the same day as the show.
While Dolan is going mainstream and his book will be in Tesco and already a deal is done to publish it in South Korea he is also properly underground having been on the streets for 20 years, jail for 12 and about as immersed in hardcore street life as you can be. It is this mix of underground and populism that I work in.
Dolan is east London’s most notorious artist. For three years, he sat every day with his dog George on Shoreditch High Street. In the past, Dolan had been in and out of prison and often found himself homeless. Sitting on the street every day and watching the world go by, he became part of the community, speaking to passers by about his life, his experiences and George. Dolan began to draw the buildings on the street to document his day, elevating the old, decrepit buildings that are so often ignored and under appreciated. He also drew portraits of George as he sat beside him, and began to sell his drawings to the people he saw walk up and down Shoreditch High Street every day.
Howard Griffin Gallery met John Dolan a year ago. His debut exhibition in September 2013 focused on his unique cityscapes, and saw Dolan collaborate with some of the world’s biggest street artists, including ROA, Thierry Noir, RUN, Steve ESPO Powers, Know Hope, Pablo Delgado and many others. His next exhibition, John and George, moves away from his documentation of the street and turns inward, centring on the unique relationship between the artist and George.
The story of John and George is one of companionship and hope. Dolan was on the streets when he was given George in exchange for the price of a strong can of lager. Since that time, George has been Dolan’s most loyal companion, ultimately enabling him to change his life. With George at his side, Dolan managed to escape a twenty year cycle of homelessness and prison, establishing himself as one of east London’s most recognisable artists.
John and George will present viewers with an immersive microcosm of the street in which visitors will be surrounded by hundreds of drawings of George. The repetition in Dolan’s work stems from the years of working on the street where each drawing he made of George marked the passing of another day and George’s presence was the one thing in Dolan’s life which he could rely on totally. In the chaotic world in which we live, Dolan uses repetition to encourage viewers to take a moment and see things in a different way. The subtle variations in each drawing tell a story and document a quiet and unassuming friendship that for one month will be shared with visitors to the gallery.
In addition to presenting new original works and prints, the exhibition marks the publication of Dolan’s autobiography by Random House. The book chronicles his inspiring story of survival and redemption through art and will be launched at the private view on 17 July at Howard Griffin Gallery.
The Howard Griffin Gallery are going all out to make a visually arresting exhibition and are recreating Shoreditch High Street inside the gallery complete with pavement, curbs, telephone exchanges and pelican crossings. Dolan has produced 700 drawings of the George the Dog which will cover every inch of the gallery walls. The repetition of the 700 George the Dogs is very interesting. There are only 180 in the studio shoot below but it is quite an effect with only that number
20% of the proceeds from the exhibition are being donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.