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In the past decade, the LGBT community in the UK saw many strides, from legalisation to allow same-sex marriage to a declaration from the Pope that gay marriage should not be dismissed by the Catholic Church. As such, the LGBT art community is using various media to express pride. Culture Trip presents five LGBT British artists you should know.
The collaborative duo Gilbert & George first met in 1967 whilst studying at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London. Since the late 1960s the couple works and lives together and by producing mutual work only and always wearing business suits, they cleverly merged their identities so we think of them solely as a pair. They work in a variety of media in which they often include self portraits in order to enrich the work and give it a first-person approach. In a way, Gilbert & George are their own work of art. A trademark. They are well known for their big, colourful collages that tend to contain strong titles, nudity and phallic imagery.
It was David Hockney who made the Royal College of Art in London change its regulation and assess students only on their artwork, after he refused to write an essay as a final examination. Hockney draws inspiration from poetry, fairy tales, people he has met and places he has lived in. For example, the famous series of paintings of swimming pools was created in California, where Hockney lived for many years. Being openly gay, he explores gay love through male portraits, mainly of men who had sexual encounters with him or turned his feelings down. His early works display expressionist elements, similar to some works by Francis Bacon.
Francis Bacon was born in 1909 and lived through most of his childhood hiding his sexuality. It was his father who constantly bullied and punished him for wearing female clothing, drawing female figures and revealing his sexual preference. Only after the age of 20, Bacon settled in London and finally began interacting with males. His upbringing fitted him to be a rough, dominant man which triggered his paintings to be expressive, disturbing, surreal and morbid at times. He was a gambler and a drinker but nevertheless his work was a form of escapism and a way to cope with grief and death since losing his partner. Bacon is famous for breaking a subject to diptychs and triptychs.
Rachael House is a multidisciplinary artist who crosses the boundary between high-end art and commercial, everyday items such as banners, badges and comics. Her work is usually site-specific and displayed publicly for reaching as many viewers as possible. She engages us with socio-political issues in a humorous way by running festive events to accompany the artwork itself (or alternatively, creating works such as piñatas for specific events). House’s work revolves around gender, equality and definitions of normality and was exhibited in several queer festivals and LGBT artsy event.
Anya Gallaccio incorporates organic material in her site-specific installations and she is known for her rose heads and red gerberas pieces. She compares nature and the human body by exploring processes such as beauty preservation, decay and aging. Using organic materials allows the viewer to witnesses a given moment in an ongoing process of decay which takes place through the duration of the displayed work. Gallaccio was listed on the Pink Power list of the 100 most influential gay and lesbian people of 2006. Her work is very delicate, minimalist and above all aesthetic.