AboutThe Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham, invited established British artist Chris Gollon to take part in Being Human as a Fellow & First Artist in Residence (Jan Mar 2009). During his Fellowship & Residency, resulting from his interaction with some of the world's leading thinkers from three continents, Chris produced 16 new works. These are shown a first time in the exhibition Being Human, accompanied by a 52-page colour catalogue with texts by the Directors and Fellows of the IAS, and by art historian Tamsin Pickeral,
The Institute---based in the Georgian, grade-one listed Cosin's Hall, adjacent to Durham Cathedral, on Palace Green, (a World Heritage Site)---converted one of the academic rooms temporarily into a studio for Chris Gollon. The IAS invited a small number of leading scientists, social scientists, professors of humanities and British artist Chris Gollon to look at what it means to âbe human' in the 21st century. In the Renaissance, Man was thought to be the measure of all things, setting people above animals, along with a desire to rank some categories of âbeing human' over others. The 20th Century drew on ideas of progress, reason, will and consciousness to define human achievement; at the same time 'modernism' and 'modernity' are terms that name a crisis at the heart of our culture. Intriguingly, however, the start of the 21st Century has produced a different set of questions. People have taken their place alongside other sentient beings in a world of finite resources; faith, affect, and neurological sensing have come back into the equation; and the elaboration or extension of human being through medical intervention and technological innovation has moved to centre stage. Still, the question remains: âWhat, if anything, is distinctive about âbeing human'?
Impressed by Gollon's innovations both in technique and in his image-making, as he describes the human condition in a unique way, the IAS saw his studio as a place of experimentation akin to a scientific laboratory. His images affected and influenced the thinking and works of the leading academics, and their theories and words gave Chris the footholds for developing his own imagery: resulting in a unique interaction and 16 remarkable new paintings on the Being Human theme. Among the works shown, with great innovation and ambiguity, Gollon depicts the scala naturae: âthe great chain of being'.