I had heard of the names Pierre and Gilles from my days of studying Art at GCSE and A Level, however, I have never properly looked into their work or researched their history. The duo’s work spans over four decades and their art features everyone from Boy George crossed with Krishna to Serge Gainsbourg as an imprisoned Santa. The pair are a French photographer and painter couple.
They are best known for their array of fantastical tableaux with stars of stage and screen and have been producing their art since they met in the 1970s. Pierre Commoy settled in Paris in 1972 following military service. It turned out that it was after nights out alongside the likes of Grace Jones and David Bowie at the Le Sept nightclub that he began publishing his photographs in fashion magazines. Whereas Gilles Blanchard studied painting, then moved to Paris, where he too immersed himself in the underground. Gilles had been collecting photo-booth pictures since he was 16.
Pierre and Gilles met in September 1976 at the launch of Kenzo’s first boutique in Paris. When looking through galleries of their work, I soon realised that they have travelled the world together and reflected their global outlook in this art. Their art is honestly not my usual style or something that would normally catch my eye, I’m more drawn to minimalist and fine detailed art, however their work is bright, extravagant and I liked how exotic the pieces feel. Their work draws on influences from all continents, including artists from the Arab world such as Umm Kulthum, Abdel Halim Hafez and Farid al-Atrash.
The couple’s work originally involved Pierre taking the photographs and Gilles painting over them, but they later collaborated on immaculately designed and realised photographic scenes. I feel that their style is instantly recognisable and I would describe their work as being kitsch with a sense of beauty, and included aspirational dreamscapes.
I was surprised when I realised that they never use PhotoShop; this is their act of resistance to technology. I believe that this emphasises their skills in production design. Having researched the duo, I will now always think of them when I consider contemporary culture. I feel that they have had a large influence on this with everything from advertising to fashion photography, music video, and film. Their images that reference art history and religious iconography, create a visual impact that transcends cultures around the world. Overall, I feel that they are successful at creating global art.
Below I have inserted some of their work that I found the most intriguing and the ones that stood out to me the most.