2013, Oil on Italian Linen, 120 x 100cm
Finalist, The Nillumbuk Prize 2013
Finalist, The Kilgour Prize 2014
There is corner of a foreign field that is forever England.
Well, just. Half-obscured behind a row of overhanging trees from the traffic banked back along Penang’s Burmah Rd, lies the mouldering pile that is the Queen Victoria Memorial Statue. In a version of colonial patriotism akin to Stockholm Syndrome, in 1930 this already long-dead monarch was enshrined by “The Queen’s Chinese” - who despite having fled China as a consequence of her policies, somehow felt the need to prove themselves loyal subjects.
Their objectification of her as the embodyment of Empire was not unique. Eleven years later the occupying Japanese forces ordered her complete subjugation: The lions around the plinth had their Union Jack shields cut off, the body was concealed behind advertising hoardings and the Imperial Japanese flag was flown from her head.
Maybe they needn’t have bothered. More efficiently than any of the clumsy Japanese efforts, the good citizens of contemporary Penang have swept away all vestiges of colonialism - simply by ignoring her. Dwarfed by a basketball court that abuts the plinth, she has been forgotten by all - save the mad dogs and Australians, out in the midday sun.