The image, Black Queen by Hew Locke, shows the face of a monarch in fear, overrun by its own self-generating eco-system. The artist co-opts an iconic symbol of monarchy by using the form of the Queen’s head as the basis of a landscape, infested with plastic lizards, plants and insects manifesting themselves as the skin and bones of the matriarch. The baroque work, originally created as a relief sculpture, reflects upon the individual’s state of mind, in a society the artist sees as burdened by social stresses and strains. The piece was created partly in response to the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, on the day immediately after London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The successful bid highlighted the city's multicultural reputation, but this was contradicted in a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks that took place across London’s public transport, resulting in 52 deaths and over 700 injuries. The work embodies the anxiety and chaos of a state attempting to celebrate its global influence even as events subverted the moment. Black Queen, as a sculptural work, was made in the aftermath of the Iraq War, and is built up on a base of black plastic M-16 machine guns. The guns were to become a recurring theme in Locke’s work because, as he points out, “the United Kingdom is a nation at war and The Queen is the head of the army”.
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