We’ve had Bob the Cat, now it’s George the Dog, a soulful-looking Staffordshire terrier who has helped his master out of a deep hole of poverty, addiction and homelessness. Here is George having an arty rest…
You may have heard of A Streetcat named Bob – in which the reformed junkie owner, James Bowen, recounts how Bob helped him conquer his addiction by sharing his life, joining him busking on the streets and giving him emotional continuity.
Well, like anything animal-linked in the UK, it was a huge success, became a best-seller (one million copies sold to date in the UK alone), and is now (well maybe) being made into a film. I did once spot Bob, a lovely ginger Tom, with his owner out on the streets of Covent Garden, but never had I spotted either George (dog) or his master, John Dolan.
Until last week that is when I went to the opening of John Dolan’s exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery in ultra-cool Shoreditch. The story goes that the gallery is actually right opposite John and George’s pavement pitch where they would sit together behind a begging cup while 40-year old John resumed a childhood talent – drawing. And this went on for three years. From drawing the surrounding streets and buildings in incredible detail, John moved into sketching his canine companion, and soon began to sell his works to passers-by.
Then, a year ago, gallery owner Howard Griffin crossed the road and entered John and George’s lives. A few months later, John’s cityscapes hung on the gallery walls beside other international street artists (though not exactly homeless or ex-junkies as in John’s case). They sold well, John’s luck made a huge volte face, and last week his second gallery exhibition opened. This time hundreds of John’s portraits of George, each modestly priced at £50, blanketed the distressed gallery walls. Some are better than others, a few are melancholic, some humorous, and all tenderly drawn with a fine ink line.
Here is a rather shady pic of John, a slender, fragile-looking figure, sprawled on the gallery floor in blinding white new trainers for the opening party. Fake traffic-lights, a pavement and a phone exchange box replicate his street pitch, while out of the picture is an attractive girl who he was busy chatting up. George meanwhile, after strolling placidly round the gallery, slumped at John’s feet, oblivious to the fame and fortune he had helped bring his master.
Simultaneously Dolan’s auto-biography is being launched (John and George – the dog who changed my life), so if you can’t get to Shoreditch by August 17, I strongly recommend reading the book (or ebook) – a moving story of how childhood traumas led Dolan into a hopeless downward spiral, before being saved by the affection and fidelity of a dog.