Since meeting as students in the late summer of 1967, Gilbert & George have been travelling together on a visionary and moral journey that they liken to 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.
This journey is made on foot along the endless streets of London; occasionally by bus to the city's eastern edges. New-build developments on reclaimed and reworked land; excursions into a not-too-distant future, as disquietingly mild as it is lowering.
These 'NEW NORMAL PICTURES' have the air, also, of temperate yet strangely intense days. In fact, the stages on a journey they seem to recount have a 'post-everything' air; as though Gilbert & George have just crossed through a fissure in time to a place that is almost but not quite familiar – a place that looks normal but is not normal, is skewed, perhaps abandoned.
Gilbert & George bring worlds to life in their art that are also moods and feelings. Brute realism is infused with the vague yet precise temper of disquieting and uneasy dreams. The artists often use very few elements – a concentrate of concise image-subjects – to create the violence, drama and mystery in their pictures. Here, litter, railings, drug bags, shovels, spades and old trinkets become like a 'palette' – primal images that do the work of primary colours. There are no ambiguous shades; no finesse or subtlety softens their bleak urban other-worldliness.
In these 'NEW NORMAL PICTURES' it feels as though the old punk adage, 'the day the world turned Day-Glo', has come to life. Everywhere is dark yet too bright – tonal contrasts go to war with one another.
The 'NEW NORMAL PICTURES' depict streets and alleys and vistas where the unreal city seems to rearrange time and tenses: accelerating the slow; stalling the immediate. The overlooked and thrown away, too, reacquire visibility and meaning. The usual hierarchies reverse: discard dominates.
— Michael Bracewell, 2020