PLAYFUL and ambiguous works created over 50 years by Turner Prize-winning artists Gilbert & George are on display in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.
Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore, who have created art and shared their lives together for 50 years, challenge the distinction between art and life by presenting themselves as ‘living sculptures’, sacrificing their separate identities and turning the notion of creativity on its head.
The works on display, drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS touring collection and Tate collections, explore universal themes including sex, faith, and identity.
The artists are not afraid to shock their audience in their determination to present a truthful vision of life. The explicit nature of some of their imagery includes nudity, sexuality and bodily functions, which some people may find challenging.
The Tate explains that they are “known for their distinctive and highly formal appearance and manner in performance art, and also for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks”.
Above and below: Gilbert & George in Brighton/pictures: Simon Dack
Above: Gilbert & George EXISTERS 1984. ARTISTS ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund 2008. © Gilbert & George
“We want our Art to: bring out the Bigot from inside the Liberal and conversely to bring out the Liberal from inside the Bigot,” Gilbert & George said in 2014.
Italian Gilbert Prousch (born in 1943) and George Passmore, born in Plymouth in 1942, met in London in 1967 when they both studied sculpture at St Martin’s College of Art.
After exhibiting together, they began creating art together, adopting the identity of ‘living sculptures’ to be not only creators but also the art itself.
In 1969, their groundbreaking work was The Singing Sculpture, in which they stood together on a table, danced and sang the Flanagan and Allen song Underneath the Arches, in which two tramps describe the pleasures of sleeping rough.
They were invited all over the world to present The Singing Sculpture, which sometimes lasted as long as eight hours, and followed it with films and pictures that could extend the idea of living sculpture without requiring their physical presence in order for their art to reach more people,
As the Tate described during its Gilbert & George: Major Exhibition in 2007, “From the beginning, they wanted to communicate beyond the narrow confines of the art world, adopting the slogan ‘Art for All’. As a result, they have joined the very small handful of artists to become household names, and their impeccably dressed figures are instantly recognisable to the general public.”
In an interview last year with The Guardian, Gilbert explained, “We want an art that is in your face: aggressive. We are confrontational. Freedom of speech, we call it. To say what we want.”
ARTIST ROOMS: Gilbert & George is at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 12A Pavilion Parade, Brighton, until September 2. Phone 0300 029 0900 or visit brightonmuseums.org.uk.
* Gilbert & George will be in conversation with their friend, the writer Michael Bracewell, the author of What Is Gilbert & George, about their partnership at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, at 6.45pm on Wednesday May 9. Admission £20, book in advance. Phone 0300 029 0900 or visit brightonmuseums.org.uk.
* The World of Gilbert and George is screened at the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Preston Circus, Brighton, at 6.30pm on Monday June 4. Directed by Gilbert & George in 1981, it stars the artists, portraying what they describe as “…ALL of our thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreads, dreams, loves, nightmares, disasters, prophecies, memories and tears”. Phone 0871 902 5728 or visit picturehouses.com.
* Jenny Lund, curator of fine art at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, explores Gilbert & George’s multi-layered practice in a one-hour talk focussing in particular on works on show. It takes place in the Museum Lab at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 12A Pavilion Parade, Brighton. Admission £10. Phone 0300 029 0900 or visit brightonmuseums.org.uk.