press release

How real are our emotions for someone we’ve never known? A delusion of intimacy exists in our relationship with all famous people, and their death inevitably compounds the contradictions and complexities of this relationship.

There was an ambiguity of emotional response to the long-anticipated death of the Queen Mother in March 2002. An old-fashioned, unglamorous figure with yellow teeth and a taste for gin; how much was she liked, or tolerated, by non-royalists? Was her death genuinely mourned, or did she become simply a symbol of loss? How do we feel about being conditioned to respect someone who had, conventionally speaking, achieved very little, except an old age well preserved by her comfortable life style.

Seemingly both important and irrelevant, she will probably be remembered by many for getting a fishbone stuck in her throat. Or as a somewhat innocuous figure who carried the sobriquet of ‘most popular royal’ and someone who seemed to provide little ammunition to republican sentiment. One year on, near to the anniversary of her death, nine artists have made work to the theme of the Queen Mother. In the context of art this provides a simultaneously populist and esoteric subject that distils down into an evaluation of commemoration and remembrance, institutional mythology, irreverence and the logical asymmetry of how we mourn public figures.

Gary Simmonds’ decorative floral painting uses sampled colours from outfits of the Queen Mother’s wardrobe repeated in handmade geometrical and mechanical systems.

Howard Dyke’s mimicked commemorative souvenirs are drawings of the Queen Mother’s portrait onto plastic plates using fish bones. From another fishbone drawing, he has also projected her portrait onto a dustbin lid.

Ben Judd’s sentimental sounding voice-over on footage of the crowd at the Queen Mother’s funeral implies a personal connection with the people watching the procession. The quasi fictional narrative projects itself emotively over random and banal minuitae.

Sam Basu has made a sculpture out of vacuum-formed plastic that references Joseph Beuys’s work 20th Century - the period that the Queen Mother lived through. The intermittent video features a sinister looking Basu in theatrical Georgian setting and tiara.

Ian Monroe’s intricate floor piece cut out of imitation marble Formica, is reminiscent of the opulence of the Royal Family, as well as people’s aspirations for the trappings of the wealthy.

John Spiteri’s spoof of a Petshop Boys video features the artist’s rendition of a song written by himself. The lyrics are dedicated to the Queen Mother.

Colin Lowe and Roddy Thomson have produced a seemingly internecine drinking machine rigged up to a bottle of gin with circling birds in gloopy paint. Reminding us of the Queen Mother’s favourite tipple and the bravado excesses and mythology of the Cedar Tavern.

Kirsten Glass’ collage using a feather boa, a mask and a cut-out tilts at the charade and paucity of authentic glamour and prestige associated with the Royal Family. The cut-out leaves us just the surrounding image from a photograph of the drag queen Danny la Rue who became known as the Queen Mother of drag queens.

Sophie von Hellermann’s naive, romantic painting has reduced the popular image of the Queen Mother down to its most basic elements - the wide blue hat, blue coat, smile, and a gin and tonic.

The Queen Mother Show

mit Kirsten Glass, Sam Basu, Gary Simmonds, Ben Judd, Howard Dyke, Colin Lowe & Roddy Thomson, Sophie von Hellermann, Ian Monroe, John Spiteri