Dean describes himself as a painter of identity. His work escapes being labelled illustrational through his ability to richly convey psychological and emotional states.
'For Dean, the body is a ‘holding-pen of emotions’, a ‘thinking body’ similar to the research done by Wilhelm Reich. His characters are the receptacles of these emotions, ideas, and memories.’
In terms of technique, Dean reinvents the traditional uses of watercolour by using a technique that he has named "reverse archaeology": Contrasting layers of paint are applied separately on thick, handmade paper from Southern India. Each sheet has undergone a process of tearing and overlapping to create a final composition, this corresponds to the multiple layers of the epidermis which protects the human body.
Graham Dean was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside in 1951. He attended the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead from 1968 to 1970 and Bristol Polytechnic from 1970 to 1973. He received the Senior Abbey Award in Painting from the British School in Rome for the year 1992.
In 2000, he completed an I.C.C.D studio residency in Trivandrum, Southern India. He was awarded a travel grant from the Arts Council England in 2003 and in the same year also received the International Fellowship Award at the Vermont Studio Center, USA.
Selected solo exhibitions have been held at the Roundhouse, London (1982), Nerlino Gallery, New York (1989, 1990), Jill George Gallery, London (1994), Galerie Frans Jacobs/Judith Bouknegt, Paris and Amsterdam (2006) and Waterhouse and Dodd, London (2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012). Selected group exhibitions include shows at: Museum of Modern Art, Paris (1977), John Moores 12, Liverpool (1981), Royal Academy - Summer Show (1997), Museum of Modern Art, Arnhem, Netherlands (2003) and C&H Space, Amsterdam (2012).
Dean has also participated in many prestigious art fairs both nationally and internationally including TEFAF Maastricht Art Fair, Basel Art Fair, London Art Fair, Scope Basel and Scope Miami. His work is held in various collections including; Royal Bank of Scotland; V&A Museum watercolour collection; Forbes Foundation, New York; David Geffen, L.A.; Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, and the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, Spanbroek, Holland. Dean has also produced various films about his work. Additional work includes illustrations for books by authors such as Roald Dahl and Roger McGough.