Being Human


In 2009, Chris Gollon was invited to become First Artist in Residence and Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University. He was the first ever non-academic to be  invited. One of the IAS’s main aims is to inspire new thinking on big themes, by bringing together academics and thinkers from around the world, and from very diverse areas of knowledge. In 2009, the theme was Being Human. Chris Gollon’s task, along with a small group of the world’s leading thinkers from 3 continents, was to describe what it means to be human in 21st century. Sub themes included Abjection/Bare Life, Home, War, Migration, Decentring and Mind/Conciousness. Gollon was given a studio in the grade-one listed Cosin’s Hall, home of the IAS and opposite Durham Cathedral, on Palace Green, a world heritage site.

He would leave his studio door open, allowing the other Fellows (classicists, philosophers, social scientists, physicists, professors of literature and geography among others) to come in to discuss his imagery and their ideas. Gollon’s images provoked their thoughts and words, which in turn partially inspired more images. In a ten-week period, Gollon produced sixteen paintings on the Being Human theme, six of which portray a 21st century Gollonesque vision of the scala naturae, the ‘ladder of nature’ or the ‘great chain of being’. Chris Gollon enjoyed the intellectual ‘boundary crossing’ with some of the world’s leading thinkers: their words on his imager would often lead him to new ideas for images, just as his images led them to rethink their research.

‘In The Beginning’, a work from Gollon’s Early Thoughts series, in which he prepared for the Fellowship, is now in the collection of the IAS, as is ‘Human’, from the Being Human series. All sixteen works, together with texts by a selection of the IAS Fellows and art historian Tamsin Pickeral, are reproduced in the fine art catalogue BEING HUMAN paintings by Chris Gollon (University of Durham, 2009). A chapter is also devoted to both the Early Thoughts and Being Human series in art historian Tamsin Pickeral’s book Chris Gollon: Humanity in Art (Hyde & Hughes, 2010).

To purchase the ISBN-numbered full-colour Being Human catalogue in which all paintings are reproduced, click: Being Human

‘Chris Gollon’s work is wonderfully provocative and inspiring and added an exciting new dimension to the Being Human project at Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study on the Palace Green world heritage site.’
Bill Bryson OBE, International author and Durham University Chancellor