This Seventh Art presentation of an essentially hour-long talk with artist(s) Gilbert & George is fascinating, funny and refreshing. Art Historian Marlow asks all the right questions and manages to draw some riotous information from the sometimes staid duo, while packaging everything in such a manner that newbies to the art world won't be (too) turned off.
Gilbert & George met at college in the late 1960s. Quickly deciding to buck conventions of the day, they started billing themselves as a single artistic entity - the 'artist' Gilbert & George, as opposed to 'artists' - and set about to make art 'for the people.' Whether they have succeeded has more to do with the general cultural acceptance of art as a legitimate pursuit than the quality of Gilbert & George's work. Regardless, they appear to be heroes in their home-country Britain, where they say they're frequently greeted warmly by passers-by.
Marlow walks through a massive retrospective at the Tate Modern art museum with Gilbert & George, discussing their past, their ethos and their methodology, all the while interviewer and subject are framed by the artist's equally massive work. From more humbly presented and sized charcoal drawings through to contemporary grid-based works, with wild colors, that could engulf a tour-bus, Gilbert & George have always presented thoughtful pieces that focus on body issues, life in a modern metropolis, and everyday hopes and dreams - things that speak directly to their 'everyman' audience. On the other hand, work from duo is also profane, sexual, aggressively humorous, iconic and transcendent - like Warhol melded with Keith Haring and filtered through Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
In fact part of the brilliance of this film, either through Marlow's ultimately personable interview technique or the frankness of Gilbert & George, is exemplified in an answer to a question of where they get - and how they handle - the various bodily fluids and solids that feature prominently in many of the works. Suffice it to say that they acknowledge a newfound relationship with some of these bodily excreta (after three weeks of working with them on any particular piece) and that - jokingly? - mention of a velvet glove is made. I'll leave it to the truly curious to find out what it's all about. In other matters of 'creative secrets' Gilbert & George are less forthcoming, which is their right, but in general they are refreshingly candid, well-spoken and not at all abstruse in talking about their work.
Less a documentary than a moderated artist's presentation, Tim Marlow with ... Gilbert & George will be most well-received by art students, art fans and others familiar with the world that Gilbert & George wish to explode by sharing their thoughts and feelings with regular folks. In that spirit those without inclination to the art-scene will find a lively and entertaining discussion about a very singular artistic entity, a discussion that isn't snobbish or off-putting, and one that just might engender a new enjoyment of a too often rarified world.