Drinking was one of the major themes of Gilbert & George’s early art. Numerous photo-pieces and films were devoted to the art of getting drunk, or incorporated details from gin labels and pub insignia to explore the drinking environment. This charcoal-on-paper sculpture immerses the viewer in a pub setting, with the artists taking their positions in a bar.
Like their use of old vaudeville songs and pastoral imagery, the artists’ portrayal of drinking culture captures something quintessentially English. They have repeatedly insisted that ‘we don’t want to show life, and we don’t want to reflect life’. However these early pictures and sculptures do seem to embody something of the spirit of post-war England, its uneasy nostalgia and gin-soaked torpor.
In time, the artists stopped making charcoal-on-paper sculptures. They decided that the process of making marks on paper by hand was too individualised, leading viewers to try to guess who had drawn which bit. People also paid too much attention to the medium. ‘They weren’t listening to our messages at all. They were looking at the surface and the technique’, they later said. ‘We stopped making charcoal-on-paper sculptures because people liked them so much.’