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Gilbert and George see this work as ‘being about nationhood’. The artists’ heroic stances in the lower panels are intended as ‘a physical salute’ to England, which involves ‘all the physique, not just an arm’. Their grotesque poses in the upper panels resemble gargoyles, warding off hostile threats to the nation. However, the rose (a traditional symbol of Englishness) at the centre of the composition is blurred, suggesting a more ambivalent, ironic attitude towards England.

August 2004