Posts Tagged ‘Gilbert & George’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on August 8, 2009 at 12:09 pm
Filed under: British art, Gilbert & George, Jack Freak pictures, modern art, The Arts

Gilbert & George – two great Londoners making very British art

Gilbert & George were among the first to ‘discover’ Spitalfields, with its mix of gritty inner city and elegant Georgian houses. They’ve been making their kind of art since the Sixties, starting with performance works and moving on to huge bright images like stained glass. They’re both entitled to free bus passes nowadays, but that hasn’t stopped them creating challenging art, and this month ‘The Jack Freak Pictures’ is coming to town.

Both White Cube Galleries – in Mason’s Yard and Hoxton – are being taken over by this massive exhibition, the largest series of pictures Gilbert & George have ever worked on.

It reminds me of the brightness and fearsome geometrical precision of kaleidoscopes I owned as a child. Stark tree branches are turned into kaleidoscope images, reflected patterns, fractures and fragments. The colours are bright, but this isn’t cheerful art – there’s something quite chilly and even violent about it.

The Jack Freak Pictures are dominated by the strong colours of the Union Jack – a politically suspect symbol in some ways, used by the extreme right as their flag, part of street culture as well as the nation’s official flag. Medals figure in the work – but so does graffiti; London street signs and buildings appear, and so do Gilbert and George themselves.

It’s art that takes everyday things and transforms them, mutates them into the rich pattern of a Persian carpet. It’s like a rich and strange dream, where things we think are familiar turn into unfamiliar, sometimes threatening objects. In one picture, ’sunni’, Gilbert & George themselves mutate into – I’m not quite sure what; eyes in a chador-like face, gobs of sctoplasm, strange ghosts?

But despite its surreal aspects, I find their art very British – rooted in the street culture of London. The Union Jack is only one giveaway – there’s a reference to Jack the Ripper, too, a denizen of Whitechapel as the artists are; there are references to yobs, the police, football; and there’s the innocent provocativeness of punk, another very British movement.

Yet at the same time, this art stands outside ‘Britishness’ and asks us to consider this culture as strangers to it. (As indeed Gilbert Proesch, one half of the duo, is, having been born in Italy.)

What these guys do is weird. They take provocation and make it look beautiful; they take everyday materials and make them strange. And that, really, is the central work of all art…

Where: White Cube Gallery, 25-6 Mason’s Yard, London SW1Y 6BU (map)

Nicely ironic footnote: When I Googled ‘Gilbert and George’, the search engine suggested two Wikipedia entries. One for Gilbert and George – and the other for Victorian architect Giles Gilbert Scott. Like Queen Victoria, I doubt if he would have been amused!

Picture credit: Gilbert & George – Bleeding medals. 2008. Copyright the artist and courtesy White Cube.& Georgeilbertress Release Text <!– @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } H1 { margin-top: 0cm; margin-bottom: 0cm } H1.western { font-family: “Times New Roman”, serif; font-size: 12pt } H1.cjk { font-family: “Arial Unicode MS”; font-size: 12pt } H1.ctl { font-family: “Tahoma”; font-size: 12pt } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>

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