You ask the questions: Gilbert & George

(Such as: so how do you feel when people refer to you as the godfathers of the YBAs? And what is the last taboo?)
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The Independent Online

The artists Gilbert Proesch & George Passmore began working together when they met at St Martins School of Art in 1967, where they were both taking the advanced sculpture course. Under the monicker of Gilbert & George, they became "living sculptures", famous for wearing matching suits and appearing in their own work, which concerns itself with sex, race, religion and politics. Their trademark works are large-scale, brightly coloured, photograph-based panels arranged in a grid formation and often incorporating their own bodily fluids and waste. Their current work, Gilbert & George New Horny Pictures, focuses on the culture of personal ads. Gilbert & George live together in east London.

 

Why did you choose to live in Fournier Street? Has it changed for the better or worse since you moved there?

C Mannion, by e-mail

We moved to London's East End as students in the mid-1960s because it was so cheap to rent a floor of a building; also because of the amazing atmosphere. It was predominantly peopled by East Europeans, Russians, Polish and all sorts. Tailors, furriers, hat-makers and button-makers abounded. There were at least five kosher places to eat. It has, like all of London, changed for the better. We have lived through the changes ­ from Jewish to Maltese to Somali to Bangladeshi to City types and now to artistic people from all over the world.

 

What interests you about personal ads, how long have you being collecting them, and what are your sources?

S Morgan, Hastings

We are fascinated and moved by the drive/need that impels a person to place a personal ad. For 10 or more years we have been harvesting vast quantities of ads from different publications. It was only when we realised their similarity to tombstone inscriptions that we began to use them in our pictures.

 

Have you ever considered placing a personal ad? If so, how do you think it would read?

Ellen Dundy, London

When we place a personal ad, it will read: "Two much-maligned middle-aged artistic gents seek silent sublime zonked youngsters for eating out."

 

Does it feel right finally to be showing at a gallery in the East End of London?

Z Blacksmith, Swindon

Yes. We've spent years willing the galleries to move east, and we are thrilled beyond measure with White Cube2.

How would you like to be remembered?

Stella, London

As artists who created a large body of work that will live on and enable us to speak from the grave.

 

You're always so impeccably turned out. Where do you get your clothes, and what, in your opinion, is the secret to looking stylish?

Michael Stowbridge, Kent

We have always designed our own clothes and had them made up locally. We never wished to appear stylish; on the contrary, we want to be style-less.

 

Do you collect art? And if so, what is the favourite piece in your collection?

Candida Mills, London

Over the years we have collected art, decorative arts, books, magazines, furniture etc etc. Our favourite recent acquisition is a 19th-century granite public drinking-fountain. It bears a chiselled biblical text, which partly inspired our New Horny Pictures. It reads: "Jesus said, if any man thirst let him come unto me and drink."

 

Will you describe the processes that go into actually making your work? Do you have to employ many people to help, and where does it all happen?

Kate Simeon, Cardiff

The complicated creating of our pictures, we do alone, bringing in a few young helpers at the last stage, when we are colouring them.

 

Why do you always include yourself in your work?

M Sage, by e-mail

We are invariably "in" our pictures as a reminder to the viewer that it is us, G&G the living sculpture, speaking.

 

What do you think of the redevelopment of the East End? And are you supporting the campaign to save Spitalfields market?

M Adeymi, London E1

Our East End has always been redeveloping and reinventing itself ­ we love it. We are great fans of the 19th-century Horner Market Building, which of course is listed and cannot be demolished.

 

How do you feel when people refer to you as the godfathers of the YBAs?

P Finch, Derby

Confused and flattered, but we would prefer to be thought of as the fairy godmothers.

 

Has the change of gallery from Anthony D'Offay to White Cube2 inspired a new direction in your work?

L W Shindler, by e-mail

No ­ because our inspiration is not external but internal. But changing galleries cleared our brains in the most wonderful way.

 

Where have you been having breakfast since the closure of the Market Street Café?

Kyle Moffat, London

Nothing can ever replace the Market Café, but we do have four wonderful cafés for breakfast. Stan's, Rosa's, Pellici's and Frank's. Gorgeous all.

 

Taking into account where you live, what is your opinion of the asylum/immigration controversy afflicting this country at the moment?

Nicholas Coldridge, Manchester

We have friends from all over the world but we would never think to ask them whether they are immigrants or asylum-seekers.

 

How long, in your minds, have you been working on this show?

S Pierce, by e-mail

The gestation period for our pictures is a long one. In the case of the New Horny Pictures, probably 10 to 12 years.

 

What is your favourite personal ad that you came across in your research?

Mihal Bilman, by e-mail

"London Punk Jed 27 years old, f**k-off looking, massively equipped, heavily tattooed, tight-bodied, spit-in-your-face mohican ­ 0589 172958 so call me or else."

 

Do you have any regrets?

Carl Gowan, Slough

Certainly not! Are you mad?

 

Have you ever considered creating art works for billboards, thereby making them even more accessible for the masses?

Carl Gowan, as above

We don't think billboards are a good place to exhibit, but they would be ideal for advertisements for our exhibitions.

 

What is the last taboo?

Carlos McAndrew, Chichester

It is too early for us to say. Stand by!

 

You are famously residents of Fournier Street. Do you have people knocking on your door a lot? If so, what type of people, and what is your reaction?

Roger Mundy, London

Of course occasionally people knock on our door. They are from all walks of life and from all over the world.

 

What inspires you?

S Murray, by e-mail

Our walking journey towards the grave and every human person we meet on the way. The skies, the fears, the vomit, the shit, the love and the emptiness that is inside us all.

 

What next for Gilbert & George?

W Grenville, Hereford

Three major retrospective exhibitions in France, Greece and Portugal ­ and beautiful new pictures that are fighting their way out from inside of ourselves as we write.

 

Gilbert & George New Horny Pictures is at the White Cube2 Gallery, 48 Hoxton Square, London N1, until 15 July

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