Anne Widdecombe has been getting all fire and brimstoney over Gilbert & George’s latest exhibition, saying the artists are "blasphemous in the extreme, as [they] will find out when finally they stand before the Son of God". Goodness, we thought, who could we possibly take? (By the way, if Anne Widdecombe is waiting for us in heaven, well… we prefer warmer climes). We decided on our least shockable friend, someone who wouldn’t blink at artworks called “naked shit paintings”. This chum is pretty much a performance artist in his own right, a Gilbert & George protégé perhaps - his party piece to stand naked on the table drinking from a bottle of vodka while singing/crying/rocking.
With friend in tow, we push our way through the striped urbanites which the White Cube attracts like flies, and head for the exhibition; two rooms containing stained glass windowesque paintings with heavy religious iconography and the artist duo looking doggedly out at you. And that’s it really for all 13 paintings. Sure, the images are slick, but it’s paint by numbers blasphemy with no sense of humour or fun - and what’s worse – a total lack of homoeroticism (unless you like old men in suits). Where is the nudity, where’s the sex – where, in the name of Gilbert and George, are the turds???
Yes, it’s “naughty” to question Jesus’ sexuality, and yes it’s bad taste to show a crucifix above a line of text that reads “God loves F*cking, Enjoy,” but when more people in the world are reading Dan Brown than the bible, it’s hard to feel moved by the artist’s attempt to shake things up. Maybe its society moving on; even your Granny now regularly discusses the merits of cowboy-on-cowboy action. Gilbert and George might also be their own worst enemy, desensitizing us so much in their previous works that we don’t stick around to look at the nuances when the shock factor’s gone. Whatever the reason, we do leave (after buying a signed poster that will rock in the spare room) but not before putting an arm over the shoulder of our friend, the friend who once dragged up in a blue PVC dress and red wig and was found cradling the toilet the following morning: “Sorry,” we say apologetically as we wind through the crowd, “but there are usually a lot more cocks.”
Gilbert & George: Sonofagod Pictures - Was Jesus Heterosexual? White Cube, 48, Hoxton Square, N1 6PB. Runs until the 25th of February, Tue-Sat 10am-6pm.