From homelessness, prison and drug addiction to a well renown Shoreditch street artist.
It’s hard to believe how John Dolan’s life has transformed in just a couple of years. And who does John credit for breaking the cycle and changing his life? A Staffordshire bull terrier by the name of George. Knowing if he was imprisoned again he would lose George, a life of crime was out of the question. For three years John sat with his loyal companion and drew Shoreditch – and George.
John’s big break came when gallery owner Richard Howard Griffin exhibited John’s work which, needless to say, was a roaring success.
A year later, John returns to the Howard Griffin Gallery with his new exhibition, John and George.
As you step into the gallery, you’re eye is instantly drawn to the back of the gallery. Curiosity leads you to find many A4 sheets of paper (I gave up counting) in uniform rows and columns featuring George in a variety of poses. George is quite the model it seems, portraying a number of facial expressions including happy, noble and blue steel (that last one is a joke of course). Although I do think he would give Menswear dog a run for his money in a face off!
From a distance it looks like a shrine dedicated to his best friend. Only someone with huge adoration for a single human being, or dog in this case, could draw them that many times.
But John’s drawings are much more than just George. While it can be easy to get caught up in John and George’s wonderful story, look past this and you’ll see the artist’s talent and work stand on merit.
Take for instance the painstaking detail in these buildings, with every brick seemingly accounted for.
This drawing represents Shoreditch’s rapid development and cluster of commercial skyscrapers which dominate the skyline. Again, the level of detail is incredible – how many lines do you think went into creating this?
And then you have drawings which he collaborated with world renown street artists. Merging two different styles, John’s black and white cityscapes are under attack from a giant bald naked man by Broken Fingaz and an evil Aztec God-like creature with tentacles by Cityzen Kane.
One of my favourite pieces has to be this social commentary of Shoreditch by Ian Stevenson.
If you are unaware of Shoreditch’s history, it wasn’t always the youthful and vibrant scene it is today. Hipsters and the like are much the representation and association of today’s culture with consumerism and the need to be ‘cool’ deeply rooted in the scene. The piece perfectly encapsulates these mantras in captions which poke fun.
John and George is on display until the 21st September.
And if you’d like to learn more about his incredible story, you can buy his autobiographical book (I bought the limited edition which features a printed drawing on the sleeve for £20) and details his survival and how art changed his life. Proceeds from the exhibition are being donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
What do you think of John Dolan’s art? Tell me in the comments section below!