Gilbert and George, The Beard Pictures and their F***osophy


Never have I read so many variations of the word ‘f***’ across one space within an hour. As a young (and rebellious?) student one would expect that my friends and I would not be shocked easily or perhaps even be desensitised to the frequency of the word amongst peers. However Gilbert and George have proved you, me and society wrong.

What is even more shocking is that the exhibition was created and curated by two middle-aged bearded men. The long walls of the exhibition corridor are plastered with obscure slogans making use of the word ‘f***’ as an adjective, verb, and noun. The sentences are random, unrelated to one another expressing feelings of anger, frustration, sarcasm, desire and nonchalance.

Photos: Georgia McConnell

The screaming walls face each other, almost as if they are trying to out-do one another. One wonders how Gilbert and George came up with such abusive sentences; are these phrases that the artists themselves regularly make use of? Or have they been plucked from eavesdropping on strangers conversations?


After spending an hour or so scanning the walls for the most hilarious phrases, my youthful friends and I left the gallery with one word spinning around our brains and the urge to use in our every sentence. The artists certainly managed to desensitise the word for a great deal of time after we exited the building.

The walls and corridors were just the accompaniment to the main art work inside the gallery itself: A variety of large scale garish, nightmarish and somewhat psychedelic double self-portraits prints. The self-portraits of the artists would be unrecognisable if it weren’t for the eyes which don’t seem to change in colour, width, dimension or shape. In one of the prints, the artists portray themselves as worm-like creatures with intestine forms crawling around them. In another they are surrounded by barbed wire. Quite unpleasant to look at frankly.

Not something one would have hanging in your living room. These bold portraits scream at the viewer with the same intensity as the statements written on the corridors. Some say actions speak louder than words, but in this case images scream louder than words.


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