One of their largest and most ambitious pictures, the quadripartite DEATH HOPE LIFE FEAR tackles the central themes of human existence. Its powerful compositions and luminescent colours make this one of the high points of Gilbert & George’s art of the 1980s.
Together, DEATH and LIFE suggest an ongoing cycle of mortality and re-birth, with the figures of the artists simultaneously rising and falling, growing and shrinking. In DEATH, they are embraced by the petals of a rose and a daisy, while in LIFE giant leaves behind their shoulders resemble the wings of angels. In FEAR, the figures of young men are isolated from each other, dispersed at different levels. HOPE, by contrast, presents an image of unity and strength, with the youths arranged into definite groups in front of a landscape reminiscent of the white cliffs of Dover.