99.5 by 70.5 cm
with Galleria LP 220, Turin
with Galleria In Arco, Turin
Private Collection, Italy
Michael Bracewell (intro.), Gilbert & George, Postcard Art 1972 - 1989, Vol.1, Del Monico Prestel, Munich, London and New York, 2011 illus colour, p75, as Roses, Summer
DescriptionSince 1967, when they first met at Saint Martin’s School of Art, Gilbert & George have striven to make an ‘Art for All’ that would chime with the inner thoughts and true preoccupations of the average person – sex, death, politics, good and bad. Their watershed work, Singing Sculpture, 1970, not only eliminated the plinth, but also threw out the sculpture. Their artistic collaboration itself became the ‘living sculpture’ and from this point on objects would only appear in their work in the form of postcards, found objects or organic materials such as trees and flowers.
Rose All Around is an early example of Gilbert & George’s postcard collages. The work is formed of thirty six individual postcards, dating from before or just after the First World War. Arranged in rows, a number of the postcards sit either upside down or on their side. The outer border consists of twenty coloured postcards illustrating various species of rose. These red, pink and white roses suffocate and encase the remaining cards. Inside, there are twelve black and white cards illustrating buildings, including Gravesend Milton, The National Memorial Library and the site of Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution, and in the centre lie four staged portraits of a dandy gentleman.
The artists consider their postcard sculptures to be sketches for their larger ‘photo-pieces’, which they began creating in 1971. The present work relates directly to the Bloody Life series of photo-pieces, conceived in 1975, which are:
‘An aggressive desolate series with the title being both a curse against life and an appeal for salvation from decadent violence (the artists report they were thinking of the ‘’blood of Christ’’ when they adopted the blood imagery).’ 1
In Rose All Around, the ‘blood red' roses surround the colourless postcards of locations either commemorating death or depicting associated sites. Flowers are a recurring symbol for Gilbert & George, representing the fleeting cycle of life and death. Four images of the actor John Martin-Harvey make up the centre of the composition. A symbol of hope and an ‘appeal for salvation from decadent violence’, Martin-Harvey provided alms during the First World War by touring the country to raise money for the Red Cross and the Nation’s Fund for Nurses.
1 Brenda Richardson, Gilbert & George, exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, 1984 – 5, p25