"Chris Gollon is a masterful inventor of images. The strange freaks who people his paintings are like no other beings: they force themselves on our consciousness and dwell there, refusing to go away.”
Art historian Mary Rose Beaumont, extract from foreword to the solo exhibition catalogue Chris Gollon: Recent Paintings (Road to Narragonia series, 1997).
IAP Fine Art is delighted to offer The High Priest (1996), mixed media on panel, 72” x 24” (183 x 61cm).
This is a major work from Chris Gollon’s first great series of paintings on a single theme: Road to Narragonia (The Fool’s Paradise).
The painting is in pristine condition, please contact us for all enquiries and any further information.
Art historian Mary Rose Beaumont–recently interviewed for the forthcoming TV documentary being made on Chris Gollon’s life and work– was the first art critic to pick up on Chris Gollon’s work, when she featured it in ART Review magazine in 1994. She was then invited to write the foreword to the first fine art catalogue of Gollon’s work, exclusively featuring his first great series of paintings on a theme, namely the Road to Narragonia.
"Chris Gollon is a masterful inventor of images. The strange freaks who people his paintings are like no other beings: they force themselves on our consciousness and dwell there, refusing to go away. Every one of his characters is in a more or less desperate situation, without doubt of their own making, yet we are drawn into their world, willy nilly. His cast includes drunks and clowns, misfits and down-and-outs, people whom society has rejected, but Gollon transmutes these unsavoury people into heroic figures through his deep sympathy with the human predicament, however absurd. The paintings are both expressive and expressionist, late twentieth century manifestations of the great Northern European tradition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch, Max Beckmann and George Grosz, for all of whom the folly and wickedness of man is the mainspring of their art.
Gollon’s great series Road to Narragonia was inspired by Bosch’s painting The Ship of Fools (Louvre) which in turn was motivated by the long allegorical poem by the late fifteenth scholar and satirical writer Sebastian Brant which tells of a ship-load of fools who set sail for the Fools’ Paradise, Narragonia. Brant’s poem is comment on contemporary folly and many kinds of vice – drunkenness, lechery and corruption. Gollon’s series proves that human nature does not change, and people are as misguided, foolish and corrupt as their fifteenth century counterparts. His understanding of Brandt’s poem and Bosch’s painting was consolidated by the fact that he was coincidentally listening to an old album by Bob Dylan called ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and was struck by the song ‘Desolation Row’ in which the singer seemed to be travelling along with the song. Thus, Gollon’s series became the equivalent of a road movie.
The strange disproportion in the size of the figures contributes to the hallucinatory effect of Gollon’s paintings. The figures are realistically presented, yet they are so gruesome that they deny their reality. None is more so than The High Priest, a thuggish-looking villain who is a self-appointed High Priest, but indeed a high priest of what? His hands are raised as if in prayer, but more likely they are opened to catch something more elusive, luck perhaps, since his own has surely run out. He wears tinted glasses to shade his shifty eyes, and he turns his head to look at us guiltily, showing his furrowed bull neck and prominent Adam’s apple. The disproportion extends to a figure at the rear who is attempting to uproot the nails holding the stage together, indicating that he at least has given up any hope in the efficacy of prayer. The girl or small woman stretches her arms up, not out of conviction, but because she has been told that it is the right thing to do. Indeed, her featureless face proclaims that she does not know why she is doing it. Similarly, the little man wears on his head an absurd fusion of a bottle and a rolling pin for reasons which are unknown to him and unknowable to us. Gollon asserts that the self-styled High Priest “is looking for a miracle”. Magic Realism is only one of the ways to designate this transmigration between the miraculous and the surreal."
"The gentle but dry humour and relentless irony inherent in this painting is characteristic of his work."
Art historian and Gollon biographer, Tamsin Pickeral
The Narragonia series paintings are relatively rare, most being in private collections. The High Priest is also reproduced in the 2010 monograph ‘Chris Gollon: Humanity in Art’ by art historian Tamsin Pickeral, endorsed by Bill Bryson OBE.
" ... the paintings have a sense of metaphysical, and to a lesser extent physical movement; they transpire and unfold across a surreal terrain, loosely following an esoteric road. […] The source for these green and white spotted clothes traces back to Gollon’s school days and to an unfortunate friend whose eccentric father typically undertook the school run wearing a green and white spotted dressing gown, secured with a belt from which hung a hot water bottle.
The gentle but dry humour and relentless irony inherent in this painting is characteristic of his work. These elements lend his paintings poignancy and allows the artist to depict subjects from the basement of human experience, whilst maintaining a balance between pathos and humour that, with rare exception, prevents his subjects from becoming either blatantly cartoonish, or hellishly without hope. Depiction of humanity, in all its forms of weakness, strength and the diabolical, has, since the Narragonia series of paintings, been a fairly consistent theme throughout Gollon’s work. His approach is heavily steeped in irony, with an appreciation of the ridiculousness of human situations, mostly self-induced, but with a definitive empathy. He might paint humorous and/or disadvantaged characters, but he does so without mockery, suggesting instead a genuine sincerity and understanding that encourages the viewer to identify with, and appreciate, the subject matter with sensitivity."
"Chris Gollon also loved Fellini’s films and in particular Amacord, even owning a recording of the film’s soundtrack. He loved Fellini’s absurd human situations, peopled with mysterious characters and parallel narratives, which inexplicably cohered through music.
David Tregunna, from the foreword to the museum exhibition catalogue CHRIS GOLLON: Beyond the Horizon (2019)
Chris Gollon (1953 - 2017) has been represented by IAP Fine Art since 1993. Born in London, as well as substantial critical acclaim, he enjoyed many solo museum exhibitions in the UK, and major museum acquisitions including the British Museum.
Following his untimely death in 2017, critical acclaim continues, with several books published featuring his work and a museum retrospective of his music-related works. Eleanor McEvoy – with whom Chris Gollon enjoyed a two-year exercise in artistic boundary crossing 2015-2017 – launched a new album in 2021, entitled 'Gimme Some Wine'. The title track is a song she wrote inspired by Chris Gollon's work, which she dedicated to him.
The album launch also coincided with the release of a short film charting the Gollon/McEvoy artistic collaboration and the story of the song.
For more information on Chris Gollon, click: here.