By Yasmijn Jarram

Soldiers, warriors and generals from colonial times appear in Andrew Gilbert’s extravagant, harsh humoristic drawings and installations. Andrew Gilbert caricaturizes familiar figures from Western civilisation by mixing them with spirits from ancient primitive cultures. This is how he attempts to escape from everyday reality and step into the world of 19th century British colonialism. He has studied historic wars and familiarised himself with major leaders such as Shaka Zulu and Gordon van Khartoum. But he also creates imaginary leaders and gurus, for example the Holy Brocoli from India.

However, there is more to Gilbert’s work than these clever jokes. By representing historic events, Andrew Gilbert refers to and searches for parallels with contemporary conflicts. He became interested in primitive art when he was still at art college, particularly in the way European artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde responded to this genre. Another important source of inspiration for him are classic war films such as Zulu (1964). Apart from Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde, actors Michael Caine and Ingrid Pitt also appear in many of his drawings, as well as singer Nina Simone, who – looking like a goddess – destroys all the primitive peoples of Europe.

In his often sizeable installations, Andrew Gilbert combines European military costumes with tribal art, particularly with African fetish images and Voodoo culture artefacts. He finds these representations of religious and mystic energy in the Biblical works of 15th century painter Rogier van der Weyden. This is how he connects European traditions with primitive African rituals.