Emperor Andrew's vision of the flowers of Hlobane blossoming on the fields of Königgrätz, 1866 : Andrew Gilbert solo-exhibition

May 11, 2023 – June 30, 2023

Andrew Gilbert (photo credit: Lars Spillmann)

Andrew Gilbert (*1980 Edinburgh, Scotland) is an artist whose work uncovers the absurdist insanity of the modern Western imperial project by mixing historical episodes from the violent British empire with the continuing damage of the successive hegemons from the American empire, to security pacts and the brutal extractive tendencies of global capital. His work uses the powerful device of anachronism to illuminate the violence that has been purposefully hidden, excused, or dismissed as belonging to a different era by resurrecting the ghosts of these past sins and blending them with whitewashed fables that have been interwoven into national narratives.

In a culture of remembrance, Berlin-based Scottish artist Andrew Gilbert probes the forgotten. His work moves from powerful installations, expressionistic drawings, and motifs that range from military history, underground subcultures, and voodoo lore.

Defenders of Western Civilization (tm) Starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett and Michael Caine as Coloniel Bromhead (2022) acrylic on paper 40 x 30 cm

In doing so, he resurrects long-buried parts of European history, inverts colonial power relations, and exposes the ever-present murderous logic of empire in our collective Western conscience.

His work breaks the first rule of history by using anachronism to create fantasy concoctions involving battles, Leek Phone plantations, and dioramas, mixing timelines, narratives, and characters from the past 150 years into painfully humorous subjects. 

For this exhibition, Gilbert transforms the Viennese gallery of Peter Gaugy into an obscure, faded colonial-era museum complete with wallpaper and a human zoo.  Hundreds of parrots cry out from the walls as witnesses to the ongoing crimes.

 In the center of the room stands an ethnographic exhibition of the savage tribal Austrian and Prussian warriors from the 1866 battle of Königgrätz, digging up traumatic memories from the past to let us know we are still far from the decolonial future we dream of.  The installation is combined with drawings based on the artist’s 2023 visit to the battlefield of Hlobane, South Africa, further reminding viewers that all Empires, both then and now, like cabbages in the sun, fade and rot.

At the heart of his work is the concept of the Western tribal wars. By framing modern history in premodern terms, Gilbert portrays modern nations and empires as marauding European tribes, wreaking havoc across the world, through military and capital ventures.

European Tribal War Specimen number 642 Austrian Dragoon, 1866 Königgrätz , Hradec Kralove, research by M.B.E. Prof. Dr. Andrew specialist in philosophy… (2022) acrylic on paper 40 x 30 cm

Gilbert’s unique approach to historical representation creates gems such as the Alamo being struck by a drone and napalmed, or John Wayne and Michael Caine being portrayed as Defenders of Western Civilization. 

The Alamo, March 6, 1836...is Napalmed and Drone Striked (tm) (2023) acrylic on paper 30 x 40 cm
Königgrätz, 1866 (2023) acrylic on paper 50 x 65 cm
Emperor Andrew (tm) Official Merchandise (2022) acrylic on paper 30 x 40 cm
Emperor Andrew_s European Tribal War research and botnical studies - the Rose of Königgrätz, 3rd July 1866 (2022) acrylic on paper 65 x 50 cm
Flower of Hlobane (2023) Acrylic on Paper 100 x 70 cm
Franz von Stuck in his studio, 1893 (2023) acrylic on paper 48 x 63 cm
Rule Brittania, January 7, 1841, approach to Canton-Chuanbi Fort, China (2022) acrylic on paper 30 x 40 cm image
Andrew is commissioned to paint a portrait of a Hussar, but instead depicts the Hussar transforming into living textures of the Universe (tm) (2022) acylic on paper 65 x 50 cm
Andrew landscape painting trip to Hlobane, March 28, 1879 (2023) acrylic on paper 30 x 40 cm image size