Gilbert & George unveil 'explosive' new work

Ahem by Gilbert & George

Eccentric artists Gilbert & George have unveiled an exhibition of more than 60 new pieces drawing on the East London neighbourhood where they live.

For the first time in their work, the pictures in the Scapegoating exhibition feature women wearing full face veils.

The White Cube gallery in south London is hosting the exhibition and says the images "describe the volatile, tense, accelerated and mysterious reality" of our world.

Wattle by Gilbert & George

All the works in the exhibition were created last year, and many of them feature discarded nitrous oxide capsules collected by the artists on early-morning walks in the streets near their home.

Known as sweet air, or hippy crack, the gas induces euphoria, hallucinations and involuntary laughter. Although seen as a legal-high, it also carries a risk of serious side-effects or even death.

Astrostar by Gilbert & George
Sweet Air Sweet Air by Gilbert & George

Writing in the exhibition catalogue, the writer and novelist Michael Bracewell says the canisters "resemble bomb casings" or "spent ammunition".

He describes them as "bomb like presences" that appear to "float and tumble" through the image like falling snow.

Scapegoating by Gilbert & George

Describing themselves as "living sculptures", Gilbert & George remain at the centre of the images they produce, as they have done throughout their career.

Responding to questions in an online Q&A for the Guardian, the artists said "we started out to make ourselves the centre of our art and instead of formalism we wanted humanism.

"So we are dealing with death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race, and religion. A global concept."

City Lights by Gilbert & George
Gassy by Gilbert & George

Asked if, in the event that one of them died, the surviving artist would continue to create works, they said: "We call this the great German question as whenever we have our press view in Germany, the first question is: 'Do you plan to die together?'

"People ask what happens if one of (us) fell under a London bus. Fear not. We always cross the road together."

Euphoria by Gilbert & George

Although the works in Scapegoat draw very closely on the Brick Lane and Spitalfields area of London where Gilbert & George live and work, they say they "are not here to show or reflect life".

"We are here to form our tomorrows," the pair say, adding: "The creative person is always in front of everyday life showing the way forward."

Clad by Gilbert & George

Many of the images show the artists' bodies cut up or with their faces altered.

White Cube says the pictures describe "a world in which paranoia, fundamentalism, surveillance, religion, accusation and victimhood become moral shades of the city's temper".

Bale by Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George say their new images "are breaking ground in that they are real 21st Century pictures".

"They talk about now and we are very proud of them."

Scapegoating is on at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey, south London until 28 September.

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