Gilbert and George
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gilbert Prousch (or Proesch) (born in San Martin
(San Martino), Italy, September 11, 1943) and George Passmore (born in
Devon, England January 8, 1942), better known as Gilbert & George, are
artists. They have worked almost exclusively as a pair.
Gilbert was born in San Martin de Tor in Italy, and studied art at the
Wolkenstein School of Art and Hallein School of Art in Austria and the
Akademie der Kunst, Munich, before moving to England. George was born in
Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and first studied art at the Dartington
Hall College of Art and the Oxford School of Art, then part of the Oxford
College of Technology, which eventually became Oxford Brookes University.
The two first met on 25 September 1967 while studying sculpture at St
Martins School of Art, now Central Saint Martins College of Art and
Design, one of six colleges in the University of the Arts, London. The two
claim they came together because George was the only person who could
understand Gilbert's rather poorly spoken English. In a 2002 interview
with The Daily Telegraph they said of their meeting: "it was love at first
sight." (Telegraph, 05.28.02). It is widely assumed that Gilbert & George
are lovers, and although they dismiss questions about their sex lives,
George, in the documentary 'Imagine', aired on 08.05.07 in the UK,
referred to Gilbert and himself as "two poofs".
They were initially known as performance artists.
While still students they made The Singing Sculpture (1970), for which
they covered themselves in gold metallic paint, stood on a table, and
mimed to a recording of Flanagan and Allen's song "Underneath the Arches",
sometimes for hours at a time.
A number of works from the early 1970s consisted of the two of them
getting drunk, usually on gin. Smashed (1973) was a set of photographs
documenting a drunken evening, while Gordon's Makes Us Drunk is a film of
the pair drinking Gordon's gin and listening to Elgar and Grieg,
occasionally saying "Gordon's makes us very drunk" or a slight variant
thereof. This work, in common with many others by Gilbert and George, is
executed in a completely deadpan way.
The matching business suits which they wore for these performances became
a sort of uniform for them, and they rarely appear in public unless
wearing them. It is also virtually unheard of for one of the pair to be
seen without the other. They refuse to disassociate their performances
from their everyday lives, insisting that everything they do is art. The
pair regard themselves as "living sculptures". In a 2001 interview with
Tom O'Toole on Mid-West Radio, a local radio station in the west of
Ireland, the pair stated that the living sculptures idea came to them from
a visit to Knock Shrine, Co. Mayo Ireland where it is believed that an
apparition of the Blessed Virgin, saints and angels occurred in 1879. It
was reported on the "Weekly Arts" programme on Mid-West Radio on 14
February 2007 that Gilbert and George have recently accepted a commission
for a piece of installation art which is to be located at the apparition
The pair are perhaps best known for their large
scale photo-montages, such as Cosmological Pictures (1993), frequently
tinted in extremely bright colours, backlit, and overlaid with black grids
so as to resemble stained glass windows. Gilbert & George themselves often
feature in these works, along with flowers and youths, their friends, and
echoes of Christian symbolism. The early works in this style were in black
and white, with red and yellow touches in later series. Later these works
moved to use a range of bold colours. Their 2005 work, Sonofagod, has
returned to a more sombre and darker palette.
Some series of their pictures have attracted media attention through
including potentially shocking imagery, including nudity, depictions of
sexual acts, and bodily fluids, such as faeces, urine and semen. The
titling of their series, such as "Naked Shit Pictures" (1995), has also
contributed to media attention. In 1986 Gilbert and George attracted
criticism for a series of works seemingly glamorizing 'rough types' of
London's East End such as skinheads, while a picture of an Asian man bore
the derogatory title "Paki".
For many years they have been residents of Fournier Street, Spitalfields,
East London. In 2000 they moved galleries to be represented by White Cube.
In May 2007, Gilbert and George were the subject of a BBC 'Imagine'
documentary presented by Alan Yentob. At the end of the programme a work
entitled 'Planed' was made available as a free file download from the BBC
and Guardian websites for 48 hours. People who downloaded the files could
then print off and assemble the piece, and own an original Gilbert and
George work for free.
A book of their work, Complete Pictures, 1971–2005, published in early
2007, includes over a thousand of their works. Each work is large in scale
and is comprised of symmetrical arrangements of equal-sized square panels.
The works average out to one work every 12 days for nearly 35 years.