Gilbert & George, Finding God 1982

Gilbert & George
Finding God 1982
The Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Gilbert & George’s growing technical skills allowed them to create pictures on an ever-larger scale, which in turn led them to develop more complex compositions. They would plan every detail of the picture on paper, then set about transferring each image onto the individual panels by projecting a negative onto sheets of light-sensitive paper. With images scaled to different sizes and spreading across several panels, it was a painstaking process, particularly as each sheet remained blank before they were developed. Each section was then individually coloured.

FINDING GOD and LIFE WITHOUT END are like Renaissance murals in which the eye is guided across a multitude of figures and individual vignettes ordered into a coherent whole. Both address spiritual themes: FINDING GOD portrays an ecstatic religious revelation, while LIFE WITHOUT END incorporates Christian symbolism into a sublime pantheistic vision. ‘We wanted to dream a kind of paradise’, they said of this picture, with ‘those brightly
lit human beings that we compare to flowers’.

The artists appear on the fringes of the compositions, praying, gazing in rapture, or witnessing from the sidelines. They have described their frequent appearances as a way of affirming their own close identification with the picture. ‘We are there like the viewer is there’, they have commented. Even in the rare instances where they are not included, they insist that the pictures are to some degree self-portraits.

The explicit pictures in this room were created in the same year as the religious ones, and the two groups suggest a balance between the spiritual and sexual as equally vital aspects of the human condition. They also show that the artists were not afraid to shock their audience in their determination to present a truthful vision of life. The artists always say that they want to de-shock the viewer.