‘BEAUTY IS THE MESSENGER’ (Gilbert & George – The Utopia Parkway Files, part 1)

Gilbert & George 'Flagwood'Beauty. What do contemporary artists, choreographers, actors and directors think of it? Is it important to them or not? I told you about my little project on beauty yesterday. Today I’m proud to announce that I will be kicking off The Utopia Parkway Files with… Gilbert & George. I got to talk to the English artists when they were in Brussels for their Jack Freak Pictures-exhibition at Baronian Francey. (It’s still on, more info here.) Want to know about beauty as a means to hypnotize a viewer, or about the spunky blossoms they adore, then read on.

The concept of beauty is extremely important to us. When we started as baby artists, the galleries that we could exhibit in, were limited. They were the modern galleries that where there. And in all these galleries, beauty was taboo. So was colour, so was meaning, so was thought, so was love and sex. Everything was taboo. Except for a circle, or a square, grey, black or white. So we had to fight that.’

‘Beauty was our art. We wanted to make our artwork beautiful to carry the meaning. We used it as a means to hypnotize our audience in some way, to look at our work. Difficult subjects can be transmitted to the viewer through beauty. Beauty is the messenger.’

‘Yes, we are aware of the fact that beauty is considered to be an ugly word, in some educated circles. Mainly in the media. Not in the vast general public. In our case there’s always been a gulf between the vast general public and the media. A separation, in some way.’

‘It’s wonderful that beauty is a matter of opinion. It is elastic. What is beautiful for one person, the other person doesn’t see as beautiful. We love the sunset, we like the rain falling down. It’s all beauty. We are feeling happy in the world, when the sun goes down. You feel at one with everybody. Other people fall in love with a dog or a cat.’

‘We like beautiful people. All people can be beautiful. Beauty is what is in your brain. It’s not about the visuals, or what you see on the outside. Internal beauty is quite extraordinary sometimes. Sometimes you see beautiful people, but when they start to speak… that’s it. You never want to see them again. Their beauty vanishes immediately.’

‘We have become, in the last four of five years, great believers in the compliment. If you see somebody on the street with a beautiful coat, and you give them a compliment on their coat, they will remember that compliment for years and never throw that coat away. It’s extraordinary. People only want to be beautiful. They only want compliments. We did a print, Certify, based on compliments. Everybody loves that print. Everybody wants to be loved. It’s extraordinarily simple.’

Does it bother us if people call our work ugly? We don’t think they would call it ugly. They would call it wicked, but not ugly.’

‘We always say that our art should be capable of bringing out the bigot from inside the liberal. A person that is normally very fair and general thinking, who sees opera and ballet and exhibitions, should face up to his bigotry as well. We will be there to help him do that. And vice versa. A person who hates culture and modern art, well, somewhere there is also the capability to appreciate beauty and meaning.’

‘Is there any art that we consider to be beautiful? We don’t really look in that way. And we’ve stopped going to shows long ago. But we like Van Gogh. And this English artist nobody knows: Samuel Palmer. His trees are very sexual. They are all shouting sexuality. Yes: they are full of spunky blossoms.’

(Gilbert & George, interviewed by Hans-Maarten Post for Utopia Parkway, 9-9-09, gallery Baronian Francey, Brussels)

(photo credit: Gilbert & George, Jack Freak Pictures, ‘Flagwood’ (2008), courtesy Baronian Francey)

One Response to “‘BEAUTY IS THE MESSENGER’ (Gilbert & George – The Utopia Parkway Files, part 1)”

  1. […] right, can it? Want to know more about Gilbert & George? Check my interview on beauty with them here, or the highlights of an interview at Bozar, last year, here. (‘Jack Freak Pictures’, […]

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