Graham Dolphin / Lecture


A visual artist born 1972, in Stafford, Dolphin portrayed the place to be very dull and boring and growing up as a teenager with his brother they had to find ways to curb the dullness often being quite rebellious, changing their normality in ways such as changing their clothes expressing who they were visually.

Dolphin remarked how he grew up with a very limited pop and culture in general, the books in his home were all very heavy text with no colour or images and there was no art apart from the single gallery in Strafford.  As an adolescent he discovered his parent’s record collection and his Mother’s rented video tape player, this fascinated him as not only could her record programmes but as a family they could rent movies that they had seen in the cinema, so his family rented every film possible even those with a higher certificate that was bad for someone of his young age.  From these early memories,  Dolphin became inspired by art and even at the age of 17 he remarked on how he remembered a trip to London during his Art GCSE’s that he was finally introduced to a large range of art an experience that he had never had before.

(photo I took in the lecture, of Graham Dolphin showing his record art work - more information in paragraph )
(photo I took in the lecture, of Graham Dolphin showing his record art work – more information in paragraph 7 )

He remarked on how the aspect of film and record covers inspired him greatly, the films he remembered most were the horror ones; ‘driller killer’, ‘cannibal holocaust’, ‘experiment camp’- as the images were so amazing and shocking, even to a 10 year old boy. He remembered the records he bought, he chose solely on the cover, he had to choose which record he wanted very carefully and thoughtfully based on the images as he only had money for one. He also bought many music magazines; smash hits, NME, and also stayed up to 11pm to listen to ‘John Peel’s’ radio station, which all inspired his love for music further – “this was a fertile era for music, these magazines provided us with a different band every week that we could fall in love with”.

Also as a teen, Dolphin used to tape songs he loved of the radio using TDK – D90 cassettes, which he would then make and personalise his own covers for, including all the information about the record on, which he expressed that it felt like he had the real thing but had his own personal twist on it.

(An image of personalised cassette tapes, similar to the ones Dolphin and his brother used to design)
(An image of personalised cassette tapes, similar to the ones Dolphin and his brother used to design)

An aspect of Dolphin I found quite fascinating is that in the lecture he showed a photo of himself at 17, in his room where he bared his white walls with posters from the magazines of the bands he loved, yet he didn’t see himself as an obsessed fan – I can relate to this as I am in the same situation.

The lecture than changed to talking about his first works and where he had studied; Art foundation at Chetwynd centre  in Stafford-( 1990-1991) and BA Fine art in Painting at Bath college higher education (1991-1994), this is where Dolphins education then finished.  His work during his education were fashion based and were of pieces where he would disfigures the faces of the models on the front of Vogue using screws, sequins, drilling holes etc, which I personally didn’t like visually but I liked the idea of defacing the people we see as icons.

(Elvis Songs, 2011 Scratched record  25 cm circular)
(‘Elvis Songs’ , 2011 Scratched record, 25 cm circular, explained below)

Dolphin’s work then changed to focusing on music and records, in 2011 he took a 10’’ Elvis record, which was quite expensive in the 50’s, and he scratched 26 song lyrics into the surface of the vinyl, each letter just being 3mm, the reason for doing this was the ‘ statement of ownership’, personalising his own records/belongings, making them now useless to use but they had his own art on and were no longer the original mass produced item, I really love this striking idea – a really big statement in such a delicate and interesting way. Due to the popularity of these, he produced more, using the same technique and also using metallic pens, which were a very ‘immature and teenage ‘material in his words.

Dolphin then began to talk us through his more of his recent work from 2010, which were all focused on fan obsessions. My own current project is also to do with fan obsession so this was amazing to see. His work was focused on how the fans grieve and express this, so he produced replicas of objects where these fans wrote messages to the celebrities on. He recreated a bench in Seattle, where fans of Kurt Cobain had written on and scratched messages to him on, making pieces which involves so many fans makes the work very loud – as though you can actually hear the fans themselves along with Dolphin’s voice. He used images for reference and asked people from Seattle to visit it and take more photos of it for him, which I find quite interesting as the work he’s making is about obsession, and by not visiting the bench, not actually taking that pilgrimage, is a really unique way of working I think.

(Bench, 2010 Wood, metal, marker pen, paint, ink, graphite, biro, tippex, wax, paper,  cotton thread, shoelace, plectrum, leather | 77 x 213 x 65 cm)
(Bench, 2010  Wood, metal, marker pen, paint, ink, graphite, biro, tippex, wax, paper,
cotton thread, shoelace, plectrum, leather | 77 x 213 x 65 cm)

He’s also made similar pieces like this but for Jim Morrison’s bust, which was above his grave, ‘pillow rock’ in Jamaica where Bob Marley used to lay and play music, a tree where mark Oldham had crashed his car and died. The process dolphin goes through to make the pieces look like the originals is very extensive and he weathers each piece to look old, he gets many pens so they look like the writing on the objects and makes the hand writing to look the same – which I find to be a fantastic art process, as even though it looks exactly like the original and as though he’s just copied it, so much time, effort, patience and skill goes into each piece, which I really aspire to.

Graham Dolphin has also produced more pieces about fan obsession in different ways; he re-drew fans drawing he found on the internet, he produced a set of drawing based on the last notes of celebrities, a series of doors where fans had scratched messages in and also produced pieces based on ‘last views of celebrities’, which he drew with graphite. All these pieces focus on detail, making replicas of the originals, all these pieces I really love and I feel they capture fan obsession really well and in quite a breathing taking way, in my opinion.

(Last View (Kurt Cobain), 2012 Graphite on paper 90 x 130 cm)
(Last View (Kurt Cobain), 2012.  Graphite on paper.  90 x 130 cm)

His most recent work is also based on obsession and repetitively, but his own obsession instead of that of a fan. He produced text pieces that  were various shapes but over 2 meters in size and in them were; all the musicians on his ITunes account (30,000), a piece that had all the human emotions to ever be expressed on ,and a piece where he drew a line, and next to it, tried to replicate the same line. All these pieces look very obsessive and busy and are very much the same idea as his work on records and fan obsession, another way to express obsession really innovatively.

(All That I Am, 2014  Ink on paper  150 x 150 cm)
(All That I Am, 2014.  Ink on paper.  150 x 150 cm)

As you can see from the amount of writing, I really enjoyed this lecture. I love Dolphin’s work with music and fan obsession and to me, I found it very inspirational as my own project has a similar topic, so it was great to see how another artist expresses and interprets this. I also find it interesting that he doesn’t see himself as an obsessed fan with the people he makes the pieces about, and more obsessed with the art and making the pieces, an obsession with detail – which is a great way to look at it and also the way I see myself in relation to my work on fan obsession.


//Images from –

1st – my own photo
2nd –
3,4,5,6 –



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