Miles Landesman at home with The QueenMay 22, 2012 Exhibitions
In the run up to the opening of At Home with the Queen on 25 May, participant, Miles Landesman, tells us about the history of his Queen memorabilia (The Queen by artist Graham Dean) and what it means to him.
I first saw The Queen, by artist Graham Dean, at Nicholas Treadwell’s art gallery in 1975. At that time Treadwell was promoting Superhumanism amongst the artists working for him. Superhumanism defines any work that is urban and unorthodox, be it angry, humorous, quirky, or ironic.
My father, Jay Landesman, was a man who appreciated unusual art. He bought the painting because he enjoyed the way it portrays the Queen. It is surreal, full of irony and I think the setting is marvelous. Dean has painted the Queen satirically, in caricature. She wears a plain headscarf and jumper and her body is wrapped in the British flag. Our Queen must keep warm in the changeable British climate! She sits in the gardens at Buckingham Palace – note the corgis under an old oak tree in the far distance – on a mock-medieval throne with her British mug of tea at her side. Note also the padding on the arms of the throne – our Queen must be comfortable! She smiles a wide, typically royal, toothy grin. The book she is reading is like a secret scrap book. The small tear on the cover reveals three letters, ‘uee’ and the rest is covered. We can recognise that these letters belong to the word ‘Queen’, but what’s inside? We can only imagine; the book is private. Has she collected newspaper clippings about herself? Is she smiling that fixed smile at us because she is playing being ‘The Queen’, with flags, estate, corgis, throne and tea? What she thinks and feels we can only imagine.
The Queen spent many years in Jay’s basement flat. She was always there to greet me as I entered his room, illuminated by soft lamplight. I know she was one of Jay’s favourites. He loved the royal family and found the painting stimulating and I agree with his judgment. I think it is one of the most appealing works, making you stop and take notice. It hung above Jay’s bed opposite a couple of ‘destruction’ art pieces, one of them a deconstructed piano. The Queen is so tongue-in-cheek and very characteristic of its time. Unlike God save the Queen by designer Jamie Reid, for example, which has been printed time and time again on t-shirts all over London, Dean’s work has not been used in a derogatory way. It doesn’t incite anarchy, or poke fun at the serious, stiff-upper-lip monarchy. The Queen is happy and clearly loves promoting herself and her country’s Britishness. She has kept me company, emitting a benign aura over all who meet her, family and friends alike. She has entertained our guests at all the dinners and parties we have had over the years. As the drinks flow her smile seems to get wider and wider. She seems to say, ‘Come on, don’t take life so seriously! Look at me, I’m enjoying my life and so can you. Long live Britannia!’ She is definitely part of the family, and since we’ve moved her upstairs she looks better than ever.