CHRIS GOLLON: Life in Paint

CHRIS GOLLON: Life in Paint

Chris Gollon (1953 - 2017) was a leading British artist and a late starter, who came onto the London art scene in the mid-1990s, just as painting was being declared dead. The fashion was changing with rise of the YBAs and an increasing focus on art markets. Yet Chris believed in the power of the painted image, choosing to take the opposite direction to the fashion of the day, inventing new techniques and using music to breathe new life into the art of painting. In 1998, he exhibited in ROOT with Yoko Ono, Gavin Turk and David Bowie at the Chisenhale Gallery, London, in a crossover exhibition of contemporary art and music initiated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. This began Chris's nineteen-year interest in artistic 'boundary crossing' between music and painting, which led to a major museum acquisition inspired by a Bob Dylan lyric, and artistic collaborations with Yi Yao and Eleanor McEvoy.



Well known and admired by his contemporaries in the art world, why did he never reach the wider public?

This feature-length experimental art documentary tells the unique story of one of his generation’s most important artists who, just as it seemed he would get the acclaim he deserved, sadly died following complications after a major operation. The film builds on the aesthetic of two award-winning short film collaborations with Eleanor McEvoy and with the Sleaford Mods, and a combination of archive footage alongside more recent interviews with people who were influenced and impacted by Chris’ work.

Told chronologically through his major series of paintings, the film explores Gollon’s participation in ROOT – originated by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore – to an eight-year public commission to paint ’Fourteen Stations of the Cross’ and we hear from fellow artist Maggi Hambling and novelist Sara Maitland on the profound effect the works had on those who viewed them. The film shows Chris at work in his studio, as well as interviews with Thurston Moore (collaborator), Yi Yao (Grammy-nominated Chinese classical virtuoso, and collaborator), Eleanor McEvoy (collaborator), and André Portasio (widower of Gollon collector Paul O’Grady). This is combined with archive BBC and ITV footage to create a rich texture of content throughout the film.

Spanning a career of over 25 years, this documentary explores how a self-taught artist emerged into the art world just as painting was considered dead, overcame numerous obstacles, and breathed new life into the medium. The film lets the viewer into his technical innovations in painting, printmaking, and film; and his unending imagination and a Gollonesque world, which reflects our own. Chris had a unique imagination and always worried he would die before he got all the images out of his head. In December 2016 (possibly preparing for his own death ahead of an eight-hour operation) he painted his last three masterpieces, one of which was a self-portrait, with fingers crossed.

His legacy continues to influence new work today. Since his death, as well as books being published featuring his work, in 2018, Romsey Abbey acquired a major diptych. In 2019, a museum retrospective of his music-related works premiered a new film using his imagery made with the Sleaford Mods. In 2021, an award-winning documentary short charts his work with Eleanor McEvoy, whose current album ‘Gimme Some Wine’ is a tribute to Chris Gollon. A retrospective exhibition is being planned in 2024.

Director: Mark Calderbank

Producer: Peter Gerard Dunphy