ANDREW GILBERT

Short email interview conducted with Andrew Gilbert for the exhibition project The Beautyful Ones, 2013

Andrew Gilbert, 'Queen Victoria Holding Head of King Cetshwayo ka Mpande: July 4t, 1879', 2013, Mixed media on paper, 100 x 70cm, Image courtesy of the artist and Power Galerie, Hamburg

Andrew Gilbert, ‘Queen Victoria Holding Head of King Cetshwayo ka Mpande: July 4t, 1879’, 2013, Mixed media on paper, 100 x 70cm, Image courtesy of the artist and Power Galerie, Hamburg

What do you understand, and think off when you hear ‘The Beautyful Ones’?

The Messiah, The Emperor, The female Zulu Elite Regiment, those who will wipe clean the blade and the table covered in false idols and corrupt rotting vegetables.

Are there any particular African writers/theorists/intellectuals that have made an impact on you? Who, and in what way did they influence your practice as an artist?

The military strategy of Shaka Zulu.

Are you comfortable being called an ‘African’ artist? Is it a valid term? Any thoughts?

I am a North European Artist. The artist should be touched by divine inspiration and the effects and influence of their surroundings and environment and time – therefore a rare combination of the specific and the eternal and universal – thus such categories are valid to a certain point.

Where is home?

At the moment in a tent in the Sudan, in the 19th century. Or in a colonial mansion – where my servants are made of cabbages and wear hand painted uniforms, where my drawings depicting my campaigns cover the walls and my cabbage head regiments await my command in the garden. We are surrounded by jungle, the drums beat constantly. Malaria rots my brain and intensifies my visions. Not in Berlin trapped by traffic lights and building sites.

You are in many ways a contemporary history painter. What is the critical value of painting today, and how do you this ‘value’ in the process and understanding of history?

Humans are tired of art about art, of concept art demanding intellectual knowledge. They long for flesh and bones to devour with pleasure. Narrative has the power to touch all. We are bombarded by degenerate images and messages constantly –  therefore we strike back with images that burn with the fire of the Mahdi’s tongue and glow golden as the sacred Spear of Shaka. But as Shaka Spear wrote MacBeth we know that the Witch Doctors can predict our downfall through the knives of our enemies at any time.

Have you ever felt like a stranger?

Yes.

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