Gilbert & George are an artistic duo whose large scale works are about fear, and their signature is to always include themselves in their own artworks. The latest set of works occupy the cavernous spaces of the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey and all feature empty canisters used for inhaling the drug nitrous oxide.
These were all found on their walks throughout London and they’ve also drawn a parallel that when enlarged they look like bombs. This is meant to hint at the terrorist threat to London but this isn’t conveyed successfully because they resemble world war two era bombs rather than those used by terrorists today.
Other fears include young people in hoodies who offer a stark contrast to the artists in their suits. The addition of street signs in Bengali in East London and a woman in a Burka are uncomfortable additions — Islamophobia may be on the rise but these works reflect this incendiary topic. Yet, in contrast, one work uses colourful anti-religious slogans, and it’s this contrast which the artists struggle with — is this exhibition a message of non-conformity or conservatism, or simply an anti-religious stance?
There’s no denying that the artists create eye-catching, personal and often humorous insights into London life, but the mixed messages of this show lack cohesion. The artists are trying to purvey the culture of fear that we live in, but the works only succeed in telling us what they fear and how modern London has moved on from how they remember it — leaving Gilbert & George in their wake.
Gilbert & George: Scapegoating Pictures for London is on at White Cube, 144-152 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ until 28 September. Entrance is free.
For more art to see in London, check out our July listings