Launched in time for the spookiest time of the year, scare yourself silly in Greenwich to get the once over by the robotic face of long dead Queen Elizabeth I. Yes, that’s right. The face of one of our scariest monarchs follows you round the room while you study her portrait in her actual birthplace – the Queen’s Presence Chamber in Queen’s House, on the site of the original Greenwich Palace. The face to launch 1,000 nightmares is the creation of Matt Collishaw who has brought to life the features of one of the most famous women in history using the iconic ‘Armada’ portrait as a blueprint.
The ‘Armada’ portrait of Elizabeth drips with symbolism and functioned as a strong political statement during her reign to emphasise and solidify her power and position. Elizabeth understood the importance of her public image and the portrait suggests her power and authority. It positions her as a skilled and competent leader at a time when it was unusual for an unmarried woman to be on the throne, justifying her position as female head of state when during her rule many pressured her to marry and step back from rule in favour of a male head of state.
This is prescient in today’s world of social media and obsession with manipulating photographs to present their subjects in the best light. Collishaw’s mask raises questions about both the historic and modern preoccupation with female appearance and their place in society. Elizabeth was a pioneer of many of the practices of image manipulation that technology facilitates. Collishaw invites audiences to consider what may lie underneath the presentation of a carefully-curated public image.