The exhibition launches a new body of artwork by Dominic Harris, who returns to his celebrated butterfly motif in the new series World Stage and Metamorphosis. The surprising juxtaposition of the bold, iconic design of the flags with the delicate, organic beauty of the butterfly represents the many facets and nuances of national identity today. This is heightened by the material transformation of the butterflies themselves, from full colour, to monochrome, to leaf-like precious metals.
Flags are an enduring art historical motif. The strong iconography of the American flag was famously exploited by pop artist Jasper Johns, who recognised the ubiquitous presence of the 'Stars and Stripes' in everyday life. Exhibited here, contemporary artist Mitch Griffiths' use of flags evokes the political and historical allegory of traditional European painting, though Griffiths' flags are permeated by the humanity of those who bear them.
Fascinated with the proliferation of political imagery, Andy Warhol's representation of Chairman Mao has become one of the most recognisable images in contemporary art. His timeless and boldly coloured portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, based on an official photograph marking her Silver Jubilee in 1977, is now an iconic image of the reigning monarch in its own right. When seen in 2020, Warhol's portrait is poignantly symbolic of the Queen's continuing presence in twentieth and twenty-first-century culture.