In the 1980s, Gilbert & George’s pictures became bigger, brighter, and bolder, with images used as mere starting points for their elaborate compositions. In Winter Flowers, for example, children playing in the snow are given a foreground in which the artists appear like minor deities in a mythological scene, evoking archetypes of transience and death. These pictures are often playful.

After their initial hesitancy, Gilbert & George became remarkably confident in their use of color. Bold areas of blue, yellow, red, and green transform their black-and-white source images, shifting them from naturalism to an imaginatively charged, heightened reality. “Now we use more colors, but in each picture they mean something different…They can be symbolic or they can be atmospheric or emotional…It’s more a part of our own language, really—part of our vocabulary.”

Gilbert & George’s growing technical skills allowed them to create pictures on an ever-larger scale, which in turn led them to develop more complex compositions. They would plan every detail of the picture on paper, and then set about transferring each image onto the individual panels by projecting a negative onto sheets of light-sensitive paper. With images scaled to different sizes and spreading across several panels, it was a painstaking process, particularly as each sheet remained blank before they were developed. Each section was then individually colored.



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