Cool Couples:Gilbert and GeorgeMay 14, 2015
Changes in fashion supposedly signal the individuality and creativity of the wearer: the more eccentric and outrageous you are, surely the more interesting you are as a person? If the moustache did it for Dali and the unibrow for Frieda Kahlo, then surely the rest of us can spot creative souls such as Gilbert and George through the language of fashion and its carefully curated themes? Right?
Wrong. The living proof that this theory is rubbish are the artists Gilbert and George, whose way of dress has remained precisely the same since the 1960s. They have established a dress code – as well as a recognisable graphic language – from which they never steered away, and yet they continue to address social issues, taboos and artistic conventions in their work.
Working in series, Gilbert & George have confronted many of the fundamental issues of existence: sex, religion, corruption, violence, hope, fear, racial tension, patriotism, addiction and death. With topics such as these, who has the time to follow the fickle twists of fashion?
According to their White Cube artistic statement, they’re too busy with pain and death: ‘Our subject matter is the world. It is pain. Pain. Just to hear the world turning is pain, isn’t it? Totally, every day, every second. Our inspiration is all those people alive today on the planet, the desert, the jungle, the cities. We are interested in the human person, the complexity of life.’
Young Gilbert Prousch and George Pasmore met at St Martins School of Art during the sixties, and soon started creating art together. Adopting the creative unity (“two people, one artist”) and the concept of living sculptures, their entire lives (or their clever reflection of it) became their work of art.
They have an exceptional sense of perverse beauty, which is better appreciated coming from a pair looking a little like your own sweet uncles. Their conservative bespoke suits create strategic contrast with their bold, direct artistic messages; they use the perceived credibility of a narrow spectrum of power dressing to talk openly about crime, profanity, consumerism, life and death. The sense of shock at seeing them in their underwear – or even without it – is made all the greater after the armour of their tailored suits.
Copycats? There are many. In the world of fashion, Viktor and Rolf have chosen to dress almost alike (they have even nicked the ampersand!), and one can say that Kraftwerk are G&G multiplied. In fact, the way this unique couple has irretrievably perverted the classic lapel suit is very interesting: look down on the City streets during rush hour, and all the eye can see are human sculptures reminiscent of Gilbert and George. Suddenly, you can imagine their faces wearing patches of gold, their ties becoming more fly infested, more vivid shades of neon… you can see the Emperor’s bespoke new suits fall off and reveal the unique and weird side of everybody. For that impression, you’ll either want to gouge your eyeballs or to thank these two nice tea drinking gentlemen from Shoreditch.
Poking fun at each other.
Gilbert and George as singing sculptures.
They pack more bling than Damien Hirst.
Better skulls, too.
Life is fun!
But so is death!
More British than the Queen.
Cold war wannabes.
Gilbert and George don’t mind a touch of colour on their cheeks.
Coloured cheeks again, in 1991.
And yet more cheek power.
Gilbert and George show no need for Freedom Pass.
Just your two regular German bankers.
Gilbert and George subtly blending in with Hoi Polloi, from 2008.
There’s a Benetton quality to Gilbert and George.
Viktor & Rolf.
Kraftwerk having a nice cuppa.
Bespoke art and a fly tie to match.
Matching M&S knickers for the true connoisseurs – Self Portrait 1998