Brighton Museum & Art Gallery: Gilbert & George

Despite having been aware of Gilbert & George’s work since the 1980s and having seen it in galleries on numerous occasions in the past, it wasn’t until I visited the Gilbert & George Artist Rooms exhibition at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery last week that I consciously realised that their work is primarily photographic. From their 1969 photo diptych George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit through the 1972 film Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk, to a wall of domestic-scale framed photographs of pub scenes, hung in a higgledy-piggledy fashion and many of them blurred, to their 1981 film The World of Gilbert & George, and finally the huge multi-section images overpainted in bright colours like stained glass for which they are now best known, every piece in the exhibition was based on photography – mostly still, occasionally moving. How did I not notice this before? While the world debated whether photography could be considered art, it would seem that Gilbert & George quietly went about making art out of photography anyway. Perhaps people were so preoccupied by the content that they didn’t pay attention to the medium. My new perspective made me experience the works as if for the first time, and I found them fresh, uplifting and inspiring. Clearly, though, they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea: one visitor scrawled in large letters on the comment board: “KEEP IT PG!”

Artist Rooms: Gilbert & George is at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to 2 September 2018. For more info see brightonmuseums.org.uk.