"People don't want something obscure, we find. They want something bold, something which speaks directly to them. People want something so immediate they can just say, 'That's fucking good.'" (George, as quoted in Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, New York, 1986, p. XXVI).
Night View is an important early Gilbert and George photo-piece, executed at a time when the artists were combining self-portraits with images of nature and indeterminate city buildings. Night View creates a sultry, film-noir mood, with its rich black tones and dramatic lighting that cast half the artists' faces in shadow. The barren landscapes, urban and natural, lend the picture a moody melancholy that makes this picture among their most poignant works. Gilbert (with glasses at the top) and George wear their typical, inscrutable expressions, adding to the work's mystery.
What gives Night View its unique power is how the artists combine widely disparate images and associations, full of jarring contrasts, that are brilliantly held together by their unerring compositional abilities. The present work's rigid, architectonic shapes contrast with the branches of the tree, serving to point out their structural similarities as well as their differences. Night View's flat, silhouetted trees also recall 19th Century Japanese prints, and continue the artist's incorporation of Asian references in their work which began in the mid 1970's.
In 1975, Gilbert and George began using color in their works, combining red-tinted panels with black and white photographs. These red panels are harbingers of the full-blown psychedelic coloring their work will assume in the 1980's. The red coloration of early work like Night View was meant to create dynamic, "in-your-face" works. Gilbert: "We were looking for a more aggressive, more powerful image. Red has more strength than black. Black and white is powerful but red on top of it is even more so. It's louder" (Gilbert, as quoted in Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, New York, 1986, p. XXIII).