'The Head afloat on top levels on the horizon of our thought' is one of twenty-three large-scale charcoal drawings that, together, constitute one of Gilbert & George's most important early works, the series of charcoal panels known as ''The General Jungle' or Carry on Sculpting'. These panels are each made up of numerous separate rectangular charcoal drawings put together in a grid that comprises the overall image. Each has been painstakingly copied from a photographic negative of two artists walking in a landscape.
The drawings were intended to emphasise Gilbert & George's status as living sculptures, hence the group's whimsical subtitle 'Carry on Sculpting', which is almost certainly a humourous take on the great British institution, the 'Carry On...' movie. The main title, 'The General Jungle', is reflective of the more romantic self-image that Gilbert & George shared at this time and is suggestive of the notion of these two loving friends as romantic outsiders lost in the jungle of life which they journey through, fascinated but somewhat bemused at the wonders of the world.
In its romanticism, 'The General Jungle' follows - and at the same time parodies - the longstanding tradition of English landscape painting. As 'The Head afloat on top levels on the horizon of our thought' illustrates, Gilbert & George appear compositionally set against a vast forest of natural detail like a pair of country gents from some masterpiece by Stubbs or Gainsborough. At the foot of each panel, a poetic text, taken from their written work, 'A Day in the Life of Gilbert & George', appears like a subtitle. It describes an element extracted from their daily lives as living sculptures, but deliberately does not equate with the drawn image. In this way, Gilbert & George assert that the conceptual sculpture - the living work of art that they are - exists only in this gap, in this strange intellectual space that is established by these works by the distance that exists between the text and the image.
"They were not drawings," Gilbert & George have said. "They were more like a means of communication with the world around us. As if we had been writing huge letters." (Gilbert & George in conversation with D. Davvetas, in: 'Gilbert & George. The Charcoal on Paper Sculptures 1970-1974', Bordeaux 1986, p. 13). In order to emphasise that these works were a pictorial extension of their work as sculptors and that these drawings were a part of such sculpture, 'The General Jungle' was selected as the backdrop for their performance of the 'Singing Sculpture' at the inaugural exhibition of the Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 1971. 'The Singing Sculpture' is the culmination of their work as living sculptures, and the use of 'The General Jungle' drawings as a backdrop emphasised the extension of themselves as living works of art into all areas of creativity.