By Fiona Sibley
British artist Graham Dolphin’s raw material is ready-made, mass-produced pop culture – vinyl, fashion mags and record sleeves that feature famous imagery and iconic faces. Armed with a pen or scribe, he turns these into palimpsests of the slick commercial tools they were, scratching rows and rows of obsessive lyrics and text into their glossy surfaces. Although drawing his material from the seductive worlds of music and fashion, which often attract criticism for their ephemerality, Dolphin delivers a surprise by subverting their meaning in a more flattering way. His actions seem to embellish rather than deface these objects, and add to their enduring appeal. Perhaps that’s why Vogue publisher Condé Nast, which initially blocked Dolphin from exhibiting some of his works at London’s Barbican in 2002, has since remained quiet about his activities. But is it cheating to take such celebrated works of graphic creativity as a starting point for original art? Perhaps, but it’s certainly a serious endeavour: Dolphin’s arduous inscription of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation cover took nine months. And reducing the power of words to visual icing sugar is shown to be an interesting experiment. Like many of us, Dolphin displays a peculiar fascination with these objects and what value they hold, and celebrates them in a way reminiscent of teenage fan behaviour – an act of idolatry rather than satire.
Repeater, a solo exhibition by Graham Dolphin, is now showing at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA