Union Jack stars in Gilbert & George "freak" show

Thu Jul 9, 2009 9:54am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Cindy Martin

LONDON (Reuters) - Eccentric British double act Gilbert & George have produced their biggest group of works to date with the 153-piece "Jack Freak Pictures," which tackles themes including nationhood, religion, sex and being English.

The dominant image throughout is the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, which forms the backdrop to distorted photographic images of the artists' faces and figures.

Around 40 of the pictures, overlaid with symmetric black grids, are on display at two White Cube galleries in London. Those hanging at the Mason's Yard venue are valued at 50,000-170,000 pounds ($80,000-$275,000) each.

The besuited artists, in their 60s and considered "godfathers" of the contemporary art scene, said the inspiration for the works was "the freak," which appeared in their minds as people with three noses, or four eyes falling from trees.

People's appearance, and what they think and do, are often very different things, the artists said.

"The freak is inside yourself when you close your eyes," said Italian-born Gilbert Proesch, the younger and smaller of the apparently inseparable duo.

"If you look at a person from the outside they look quite normal, but inside they could be quite different," he told Reuters at the White Cube gallery in Mason's Yard.

The taller, bespectacled George Passmore added: "I'm quite amazed when somebody commits 17 murders and they interview the neighbors and they say 'very nice, very charming to me, we've said good morning a thousand times.'   Continued...

<p>Artists Gilbert (L) and George pose for photographers during the launch of their new exhibition "Jack Freak Pictures" at White Cube gallery in central London July 9, 2009. Eccentric double act Gilbert &amp; George have produced their biggest series of pictures to date with the 153-work "Jack Freak Pictures" tackling themes including nationhood, religion, sex and death. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>