Did you go to the date with ‘The crown’ known by heart?
[Ríe] I must be the only person in the world who has not seen the series.
She is one of the few who has seen Ella.
In two sessions of 60 minutes: one in July 2019, in Windsor, and another, last February, in Buckingham.
Don’t skimp on details.
I arrived three hours early for the first appointment to prepare everything. The palace people made me nervous about the protocols. I waited in the room next to their private rooms, the door of which was hidden behind a screen. At 12 o’clock, he came out from behind. I was impressed! It’s tiny, but it glows. I am not a flatterer, much less a royalist, but Elizabeth II gives off an enormous vital force.
Facing each other, what did they do?
Before shaking my hand, he looked at me for half a minute and smiled at me. It seemed like an incredible display of diplomacy. And he started talking, to calm me down.
I can’t reveal the content, but it gave me the impression that his feet were on the ground. Under the weight of the pomp, there is a very simple person. I allowed myself a few dares and showed a very English sense of humor. I took as many photos as I could, until he said, “Maybe we’ve done enough already.”
“While I was working on my masterpiece, the whole world was locked in. And I couldn’t tell anyone! “
Zero natural notes?
I preferred to insure. On the second date, the painting was highly developed and I focused on her face.
Goodness. Soon the covid arrived.
While I was working on my masterpiece, the whole world was locked up. And he couldn’t tell anyone!
How did an order like this fall to you?
In 2019 I received an email from the National Portrait Gallery, organizer of the BP Portrait Award, which I won in 2018 with a portrait of my mother. They said that the Permanent Undersecretary of the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, had asked them who to commission a painting of the queen for the reception room of the building. From the list suggested to him, Sir Simon remembered seeing my mother’s portrait. “Would you be interested in accepting the order?” The e-mail ended.
I’m dying to know your reaction.
I read the email five times. I got excited and then scared. Painting a monarch can be toxic for an artist. Royalists and anti-monarchists can cry out loud, they can label you as a certain type of artist. I accepted, of course. And I had to wait months for the first date.
Isabel II saw the result via Zoom and just smiled. Not very expressive, right?
I would have loved a more personal reaction, but she is the uber-diplomat of the country and does not speak her mind so as not to hurt others. Everyone told me afterwards that she looked very happy.
And the commoners, what do we look at?
I wanted to put some surreal touch. At first I thought it would appear on the carpet, but while I was working on the print, The Ambassadors of Holbein the Younger came to mind, on whose floor there is a skull deformed by anamorphosis. I put the carpet idea aside and put the anamorphic touch on the mug. In the saucer I put the star of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, which is reflected in the gold of the cup. Another wink is in the flowers, some withered, which speak of the last stage of the reign of Elizabeth II.
Nothing hidden that they will discover in 100 years?
As there was political upheaval, with Brexit and the elections, I was tempted to include a political wink on the carpet, but I dismissed it.
She is female and figurative in a world of masculine and conceptual art.
It has its difficulty. Until recently, the figurative was in the trash. And being a woman artist … Well, a man’s ego inclines him to say: “Look, this is what I do and it’s great.” They think the stage belongs to them.
And what do you think?
I like to seduce with technique and take the viewer to another dimension. I am fascinated by the possibility of mystery and imagination. The world we can create is as real as the one we live in.