Gilbert and George Don’t Get Their C*cks Out Shock! might have been the appropriate headline for the latest Gilbert and George exhibition, at the new White Cube Gallery in Hong Kong. “London Pictures” sees the dynamic duo present a collection of paintings composed from tabloid headlines collated over the past 6 years. The result is a dark and unsettling portrait of life in the once swinging metropolis, where crime, fear, violence, vice and terrorism seem ubiquitous. In an interview with Euro News Gilbert explained the thinking behind their latest work:
“We feel we’re not trying to shock anything. This is the reality that we found in London. Because we didn’t invent this title. They are there.”
Then Gilbert and George alternately explained “London Pictures” in a series of sound-bites:
George: “We believe that everyone understands what is inside everybody which is death.”
George: ‘‘We’re only dealing with the universal elements and we love to do that with people wherever they live.’‘
Though at first glance it appears there is little subtlety here, the grim austerity makes the paintings all the more effective. Our eyes are drawn to a series of highlighted words set against a background of net curtains and brick walls, there is little of the joy once found in Gilbert and George’s “piss” and “shit” paintings, or their beautiful and iconic portraits of young men. The emphasis on text reminds me of the clipped headline collages made by Kenneth Halliwell in the 1960s, in particular, his poster for Joe Orton’s play Loot. That said, there is nothing second-hand about “London Pictures”, it is a powerful exhibition and Gilbert and George have lost none of their bite, or wicked sense of humor - note how the Queen’s head (apparently lifted from the back of U.K. coinage) is stamped on each painting with a word relevant to each picture (“Killer”, “Rapist”, “Vice”, “Victim”, etc.) written above.
“London Pictures” is the inaugural exhibition at the Hong Kong White Cube Gallery, and Gilbert and George were chosen because of their global status as iconic status. White Cube director Graham Steele said:
“Because the pictures are difficult, these pictures are unrelenting. These pictures force you to spend time with them and they’re about our daily lives. They’re about the way in which individuals live in metropolitan areas. Gilbert and George are asking with these series, ‘is this the world that we live in?”
“London Pictures” runs until May 5th 2012 at Hong Kong’s White Cube.
For a more in depth interview with the fabulous duo, pop over to the White Cube Gallery site, where Tim Marlow talks to Gilbert and George.
Previously on Dangerous Minds