Pipe Dream



The early days of punk, much like Surrealism, were galvanised by a sense of irreverence, of breaking free from convention and using art to shock audiences into seeing the world in a new light. Pipe Dream fuses the boisterous anarchy of punk with the gleeful absurdism of Surrealism to create a Technicolour Pop dystopia where the British monarchy is a relic of the past. In the work, the late Queen Elizabeth II is depicted as a crumbling, semi-nude bust from ancient antiquity, a nod to Magritte’s tongue-in-cheek 1931 sculpture ‘The Copper Handcuffs’. Romeo’s mastery of wordplay sees the phrase ‘No Sculptures’, a nod to Banksy’s ‘No Ball Games’ (2006), erased to form the phrase ‘No Future’, a scathing comment on modern day nobility as an institution that, like the opulent marble sculptures that once adorned palaces, is very much in decay. Inspired by the Sex Pistol’s 1977 punk anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, the text assemblage ‘No Future’ elevates Johnny Rotten’s snarling refrain of ‘No future for you/No future for me’ into a snotty anti-authoritarian slogan declaring the final days of royalty. Once considered a pipe dream, the uncertainty over the future of the British Royal Family since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 has become a genuine point of conversation within Pop culture. Prince Harry’s recent allegations against the Royal Family have further brought the Royal Family’s longevity into question. Johnny Romeo cleverly hammers the point of the ‘pipe dream’ home both in the title of the work and with the image of Magritte’s iconic pipe from his 1929 painting ‘The Treachery of Images’, which dominates the forefront of the painting. In a final, humorous send-up of Royal Britannia imagery, the arrangement of the smoking pipe, the Queen and the text bubbles creates a dysfunctional Union Jack formation.

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Acrylic & oil on canvas