PAST: LGBT+ RIGHTS
57x72cm, screen print
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ABOUT THE WORK
In Jez's own words
The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, better known as the Wolfenden Report (1957) was the first British governmental report to consider the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men, following a succession of high-profile arrests and trials in England. The report recommended that homosexual offences should not be illegal, as it was ‘no matter for the law’. During the committee’s sessions, homosexuals and prostitutes were referred to as ‘Huntley & Palmers’ (a well known make of biscuit), to spare the delicate nature of the committee’s lady members.
This work partially translates the two pages of the report’s recommendations into Polari, which would have been at its height around the time of the report’s writing.
Previously exhibited: British Museum Touring (Nottingham, Norwich, Oxford, Bolton, Dorchester) The National Gallery of Iceland, UK Parliament, Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre,The Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery,The Herbert Art Gallery Coventry,The Red House Aldeburgh (Britten-Pears Foundation)
Collections: The British Museum, The UK Parliament Art Collection,The Walker Art Gallery Liverpool (purchased via Art Find), private collections in the UK and USA
For the past decade Jez Dolan’s practice has underlined the intersections between queerness, sexuality, identity and memory. These interests are expressed in a range of mediums including, drawing, installation, printmaking and performance. His work is in a number of private and public collections internationally including the British Museum, the Government Art Collection (UK), the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art, New York City, The Walker Art Gallery Liverpool and the Schwules* Museum Berlin.
(image credit Daniel Walmsley)
We had a short chat with Jez to get to know him better
What is your creative background? How did you start making art?
As a child I was taken to a panto at Christmas and it was magical. There weren’t any art galleries around, and working class families typically go to pantomimes rather than art galleries. Theatre was part of my life because it was right there and it was accessible.
I started as a performer in non-traditional theatre working outdoors on large scale site-specific productions with bonfires and fireworks. Then I worked as an arts officer for a few years, where I made work with communities and formed creative partnerships.
In 2010 I started my own practice as a photographer, working on a series of self portraits and eventually made them into a book that was exhibited in 2011. The exhibition opening was full of people! It was such a great experience, the formality of the gallery space was very different. That was the turning point where I began my career as a visual artist.
How did your practice develop?
It has been a really organic journey! Photography played a big part at the start of my journey, at first it was just a relatively simple method of making something. I made floral tributes for Manchester Pride and seeing them decay in my garden inspired me to make a series of prints using photos of these sculptural objects. I then got very interested in the printing process and went on to learn various methods including stone lithography.
Collaboration and theatre are still a huge part of my practice. I use performance in my practice as a visual artist and I also create productions. Collaboration is key for me because I prefer to bring the work to the people, rather than bring the people to see the finished work.
What’s your creative process?
I’m very experimental, it’s not planned, everything unfolds naturally. I start with an idea that could be a shoot out from a previous project, something I learnt that stuck with me. All my work is connected from project to project either through the idea or the medium. It’s important to me to have a line that goes through my work, a recognisable aesthetic and theme.
I do some research, I speak to artists and communities. Once I get into the studio I try to physically make work straight away instead of getting too heavy into the research. Doing while thinking has been the best approach for me. I do lots of monoprinting because it's quick and easy, it produces accidents and starts to take my ideas down a different path. The process is part of the work itself, and the making is part of the idea incubation.
I recently started painting. It’s very very new and I’m equal parts excited and terrified. You can’t get more process-led than painting! It makes me reflect on the destination vs journey in my work. I have to keep thinking “If I am going to do an oil painting what will it look like?”.
How did text and language enter your work?
The Manchester Pride floral tributes were the first pieces using text. It attracted me, and I began to question the power and significance of words. I am part of the Manchester Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and we use Polari in our services. In 2013 I was approached by an artist to make an iPhone app for Polari - we made the most comprehensive Polari dictionary that ever existed. Language as both form and content started appearing in my work more and more.
Polari was not a written language it was spoken, and there was very little written evidence of it. I found out about Cecil Ives who created the world’s first secret homosexual society, and travelled to Austin Texas to read his diaries that he kept for 63 years. In 2014 I made drawing works based on Cecil Ives’ diaries and that eventually led to me being commissioned by the Parliament to create a piece for their 750 year celebration.