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News / 19 August, 2013

Former rough sleeper John Dolan’s art sells for thousands of pounds

Exhibition set to take place next week with help from famous street artists including Stik and ROA

Mr Dolan drawing on a Shoreditch Street with his dog George

Mr Dolan drawing on a Shoreditch Street with his dog George

A former prisoner who chronicles Shoreditch’s changing streets is exhibiting his artwork in his first public show this month with help from some of the best known street artists including Stik and Thierry Noir.

John ‘John the Artist’ Dolan, 42, has lived what he describes as a “rough life”.

He has spent time living on the streets, has been in and out of Pentonville Prison over the years and is a regular feature of Shoreditch High Street with his dog George, who he has done many drawings of since he bought him as a puppy for the price of a can of lager.

Now Mr Dolan has rediscovered a long-neglected gift as an artist and has created a series of finely drawn, detailed monochrome cityscapes that he then posted to famous street artists around the world who added their own splash of colour to the drawings.

MadC, described as the top female graffiti artist on the planet, is one of Mr Dolan’s collaborators, as is ROA, whose giant animals including hedgehogs and herons adorn many buildings in the East End. Mr Dolan describes ROA as “the best technical artist in the world”.

A detail from one of Mr Dolan's pieces, which he collaborated with Thierry Noir and ROA to produce

A detail from one of Mr Dolan’s pieces, which he collaborated with Thierry Noir and ROA to produce

Mr Dolan’s pieces have fetched as much as £15,000 and his work has been published in a book, Shoreditch Unbound, which also features Tracy Emin and Gilbert and George.

“I like to show the rougher side of Shoreditch,” he says. “I like to draw buildings that are really decrepit, but I also use my imagination, so the scene looks different from what it looks like in real life.”

While in Pentonville serving time for what he says were petty crimes, he did not do any drawings.

“There is no inspiration in prison,” he says. “There are just bare walls and bars. I have been thinking of trying to go back into prisons as a visitor to do art projects with young prisoners.”

A detail from one of Mr Dolan's artworks

A detail from one of Mr Dolan’s artworks

Richard Howard-Griffin, whose gallery is hosting Mr Dolan’s show, said: “What John represents is the unseen side of Shoreditch, the street side. He is someone who is really from the street and it is quite interesting in the face of all these designer boutiques and the way the area is being remodelled.”

John Dolan’s exhibition runs for one week from 19-26 September at the Howard Griffin Gallery, 189-190, Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HU

/ 19 August, 2013
  • Firstly let me tell you this, Yes i do know him, and many of his past victims, and no i am not biased as he never did anything directly to me. In my opinion this book would have been better with more honesty. A big thing is the way he tries to get negative comments from people who knew/know him removed from websites.

    This tale is a very rose tinted view on his own character (which he does admit has many flaws). What amazed me as someone he knows him was all the stuff that was left out but that would have told you more of the truth about him than he wanted though, and most would think differently about him. Yes he did have a VERY tough start to life (as many of us who grew up in that area did) many people tried to help him but he always threw that back in their face (mostly by committing some nasty act against them)

    If you want an accurate picture of this person ask the many victims of his (self confessed) thieving and robbery, or kids he bullied when he lived in Kings Square, or the people that have problems with him to this day. The man (i loosely use that term) is still the same kid as he was. In all the interviews he gives, he has never apologised to a victim of his crimes or bullying. Maybe he sees his redemption in the charity work he does, i however feel even his charity work is self serving. It seems he thinks that all the suffering he caused was because “i had a tough start to life/i was bullied” To do the things he did he had to make a decision, think about it, and take the action anyway. I am all for second chances for good people (forgiving genuinely humble or honest people is easy) This guy however has had so many chances (even the people that helped him out of homelessness are no longer happy with him) Please take his homelessness ( i do not deny he was for a time) with a pinch of salt as the fact that for a lot of the times he claims he was homeless he did actually have access to a flat. It seems to most people that knew/know him and read and review his book are of the same opinion, no remorse or sorrow shown for his victims, only for himself. As for people that defend and praise him i would say only this, if you had ever been a victim of his then you would easily have a different view. The biggest clue to his real character is the inability to keep friends.

    He is a typical case of “its never my fault for what i do, it is always someone else” his bullies, family or officials. As for his claim “that i knocked out my bullies” the truth is that the only people he ever did that to were smaller weaker kids. And if he is talking about the his bullies, you can be sure that they were the bigger brothers of someone he bullied. The last thing i will say is this, many people (myself included read his book, and many of the people who knew him in their past would have forgiven him totally if he had the gumption, guts and honesty to admit “ALL” his past errors and mistakes, the thing that will always be said by those of us who know/knew him is this, every chance he gets he eventual blows.

    To surmise many kids are bad, but learn and get better, people can generally change. HE HAS NOT. Not a shred of remorse or sorrow is shown to the right people in my opinion.

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