Gilbert and George: The Paintings 1971

31.05.86 – 05.07.86

The Paintings (with US in the Nature) is a group of six large triptych panels created by the collaborative artist duo Gilbert & George in London during the autumn and winter of 1970-71, and exhibited at the Fruitmarket Gallery in 1986.

At the time of the exhibition, the artists conceived these paintings as a single work, one ‘based on the man on earth, the human person in the world’ which, as they explained, was ‘the basis of their inspiration: single lives.’ [BBC Radio Scotland Interview, 30.05.86]

In each triptych, the central panel shows the artists themselves, sitting and standing, looking bored rather than appreciative in the midst of lush green landscapes that surround them. They considered their appearances in them as ‘living sculptures’ and therefore were able to embody the work’s form; they continued this role in two-dimensional pieces by representing the living sculptures in apparent harmonic accord with humanised nature. The later panels afford glimpses of other scenes: a pond, a bush, the edge of a wood or meadow.

In Gilbert & George’s own words, ‘it is significant that this sculpture is able to paint its message with colour and form… the sculptors, in their sculptures, are given over to feeling the life of the work of art. It is intended that this sculpture brings to us all a more light generous and general art feeling”. [Fruitmarket exhibition catalogue, 1986]

Throughout the period of the exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery, there were regular showings of The World of Gilbert & George, a 70-minute film written and directed by the duo in 1981 in which they explored the urban surroundings of London in the 1980s, and evoked the desires, tensions and eccentricities of its youth.

Public talks by Gareth Fischer, Marjorie Allthorp-Guyton and Gray Watson were also given during the exhibition run.

Marieta Guzman – Fruitmarket Archive Intern, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2022


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