Wednesday 14 November 2012

Polly & Queen Elizabeth II

Australian artist, Polly Borland has beautifully and authenticly captured Her Majesty, The Queen, Elizabeth II with her lense. In 2001, Borland was one of only eight photographers selected to create portraits of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, for The Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

I really liked the bright blue tones and composition of these two portraits of Queen Elizabeth II that are on display in a survey of work by Polly Borland at the University of Queensland Art Museum.

You’ve photographed the Queen – what was that like? Very stressful and very surreal.

Borland had one five-minute sitting with The Queen. In preparation she set up cameras and lighting in front of two backdrops and in her allocated time shot two rolls of film, ending up with ten photographs. Borland has often taken simply-composed, close-up images of subjects in front of carefully selected fabrics. The shimmering gold seen in the portrait of The Queen, a deliberately obvious and kitchy reference to the Jubilee year, was also used by Borland in her 1999 portrait of Monica Lewinsky (who coincidently also wore a blue suit and pearls). In a second portrait of The Queen, approved for use by the Palace but not included in the official portfolio, the subject appears in front of a Marimekko floral backdrop (Unikko Blue) a pattern also favoured by the photographer.

Borland’s photograph of Elizabeth II is certainly among her more unsettling portraits. We are not used to seeing The Queen in such bright light, in such imperfect detail and close proximity. In 1985 Andy Warhol made Reigning Queens, a painting of The Queen based on an official 1977 Jubilee photograph. Borland was very interested in this painting which in one of the most popular paintings held by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Her photograph operates in the same way as one of Warhol’s multiple screen-print portraits, or even one of his Campbell’s soup cans – like a logo or trademark. Though presented with no distinction or fanfare, she is instantly recognisable. Magda Keaney

Polly Borland: Everything I want to be when I grow up exhibition, University of Queensland Art Museum until 25 November.

{Images: Polly Borland, Her Majesty, The Queen, Elizabeth II 2001 Type C photographs, edition of 6}


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