Sara Maitland's compelling human stories give voice to Chris Gollon's powerful contemporary sequence of Stations of the Cross (painted from life and reproduced in the book in high-res colour images): a unique and potent collaboration.
The Stations were commissioned for St John on Bethnal Green, a visually prominent London Anglican church designed by Sir John Soane, the neo-classical architect who also created the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The church stands on the boundary between Hackney and Tower Hamlets and is therefore in one of the more deprived and multi-cultural areas of the UK. In 2001 the congregation made the extraordinary decision to commission a site-specific Stations of the Cross, the traditional 14 pictures of the last day of Jesus' human life, used from the Middle Ages onwards for meditation and prayer (and established in their usual form by St Francis of Assisi, who is also credited with introducing the better-known Christmas crib scene - the two come out of the same spiritual tradition). Perhaps unexpectedly, they chose a contemporary artist not best known for his religious works: Chris Gollon (see www.chrisgollon.com). The Rector described the reasoning: The church of St John on Bethnal Green has had a long-standing involvement with people on the fringes of our society, the sort of people who often figure in Chris' paintings. His work contains many religious allusions and forms, which do not suggest conformity but challenge. These are the themes we wish to explore in this series of the Stations of the Cross and it is vital to have an artist who is not safe but perceptive and unsettling in interpreting the traditions. Chris has our confidence on all these counts.
It was a risky commission for everyone involved because at the time there was no money to pay Gollon, and the stations have been paid for one by one by an odd variety of sponsors, including the parishioners themselves, public art bodies and various private donors. By Easter 2008 the whole series was completed; the sequence was first used on Good Friday when the pictures gained considerable media attention. The commission for the Stations has taken 8 years to fulfil and they have been widely featured in national broadsheets, arts press and all denominations of religious arts press. The paintings are now reflected in a sequence of stories: first-person narratives by a well-known author who has been closely involved with the project.
About the Author
Sara Maitland was born in 1950. Her first novel "Daughter of Jerusalem" won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1979. Since then she has published five more novels and six collections of short stories. In March 2008 Maia press published "Far North and Other Dark Tales" to celebrate the launch of the film "Far North," directed by Asif Kapadia and starring Michelle Yeoh and Sean Bean, which was based on that dark tale. She also writes non-fiction, particularly theology like "A Big Enough God "and," " "Angel and Me" (both from Continuum), and radio drama. Most recently "A Book of Silence" was published by Granta in 2008 to considerable critical acclaim. In 2007 she moved to Galloway and has built herself a house on the moors above New Luce. "A Book of Silence" is partly a cultural history of silence and partly a personal memoir of her search of that elusive lifestyle. Chris Gollon is an established name in British painting. Born London 1953, he has enjoyed many solo museum exhibitions in the UK, major museum acquisitions and public commissions. He has exhibited at Art Chicago and also with Yoko Ono, David Bowie and Gavin Turk in 'ROOT', a crossover exhibition of contemporary music and art created by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, at Chisenhale Gallery, London. His work is attracting increasing acclaim in the national press and specialist arts press. His film collaboration with JABOD, entitled 'Kaleidomorphism One', was premiered in London at the East End Film Festival (2008). A Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham, Chris Gollon lives and works in England, and is represented by IAP Fine Art, London. More information can be found at www.chrisgollon.com.