On the occasion of the unveiling of his painting “Thor’s Story” – donated by Iceland in 2007 - at UNESCO Headquarters, Erró donated another of his works, the silkscreen “Homage to Van Gogh”. This work entered UNESCO’s collections in September 2008; it is meant as a tribute to one of the most famous figures of Dutch painting, which he has always admired.
The composition is organized according to the linear principles of perspective: the vanishing point, situated in the center of the composition, just above the mountain summit, is made clearly visible thanks to a series of portraits and the constructed, three-dimensional architectural elements. Although a great figure of Post-Impressionism, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is also famous for the legendary image of him as a tortured and misunderstood artiste, a myth especially built up after his death. Erró here wanted to depict the different aspects of his life and work.
There is first of all Van Gogh as a portrait painter; his obsession with his own image drove him to paint numerous self-portraits, which are here scattered throughout the composition. Erró also showed the Van Gogh victim of his unstable mental health, depicting him as a desperate man inside a safe, or with his self-portrait behind bars on the top right of the surface, whilst the monstrous Dracula and Frankenstein conduct experiments on him in the bottom right of the composition. The mutilation of his ear that Van Gogh inflicted upon himself during one of his fits of insanity is suggested by the representation of the inside of an ear.
Erró also shows Van Gogh as a painter of his time, through some of his most famous paintings, such as “Sower at Sunset” (1888) in the upper part of the work, “Painter on the Road to Tarascon” (1888), “Bedroom in Arles” (1889) and the “Portrait of Doctor Gachet” (1890) which are spread throught the composition, alongwith landscapes and his famous “Sunflowers” (1889). The Cubist figures such as the Picasso-like woman sitting in the left-hand corner represent the importance of Van Gogh’s work in the development of avant-garde painting. The two Asian figures having tea remind us of the influence of Japanese prints on Van Gogh’s work.
Although a major figure of the Narrative Figuration movement, Erró has always claimed himself to be a great admirer of, and trutary to, artists of the Flemish Golden Age, such as Rubens or Jordaens. True to his own style and expression, Erró here uses the multiplication of the images and information in order to tell a story, in this case Van Gogh’s life and career.
Erró was born Gudmundur Gudmundsson in 1932 in Ólafsvik (Iceland). He attended various prestigious art schools, such as the Fine Arts School of Reykjavik starting in 1952, followed by the Oslo Academy, where he studied diverse artistic techniques. He actively frequented the Fine Arts Academy of Florence and it is Italy that will host his first exhibition in 1955. At the same time as his studies, he travels frequently the world over, collecting and taking in popular images.
In 1958 he settles in the Paris, where he moves in the circle of the Surrealists, who have a certain influence on him. Pop Art is also of inspiration to his work, a parallel between his works and those of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist being unquestionable.
Images of mass consumption, « historic » figures, comic strip heroes or even Walt Disney animations, make up Erró’s painted works and collages. These images stem from the artist having collected them throughout his career… His works are rich and abounding in diverse references, offering often as much to read into as to look at. They allow their author the liberty of expressing his personal views on the contemporary world, based on popular references. Hence, Erró underlines the excesses and aberrations of our societies in a number of his compositions.
Today, Erró’s œuvre is recognized worldwide; several museums count his works among their collections, such as the Centre Pompidou (Paris) or the Moderna Museet (Stockholm).