Publication Details

Jon Cockburn, Naked Royals – Federation and the Third Dimension, Agenda 43, July, 1995, 43-45.


This essay reflects on a petit cause célèbre that played out during the National Sculpture Forum in Canberra over April 1995. The centre of attention was two roughly formed concrete seated figures depicting naked Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom. The issues to be reviewed concern loyalty, allegiance and two inanimate lumps of concrete, stuff formed and shaped to eventually disperse at a rate more rapid than most lumps of concrete normally would. In the event, however, The Large Bask, Liz and Phil stripped bare, or, to give the work its formal title, Down by the lake with Liz and Phil, sculptor Gregory Taylor’s three dimensional foray into 15 or so media grabs of fame, substantiated more than the work’s base medium’s inherent entropy would otherwise permit. It, the work, the sculpture, exposed the transparency of our collective inadequacies: it did that! Liz and Phil stripped bare also brought the Canberra National Sculpture Forum 95, and its co-ordinator Neil Roberts, a degree of publicity and critical comment far beyond that usually attracted by Australian sculpture events and exhibitions. In doing so, Taylor’s sculpture accomplished something profound: Liz and Phil stripped bare was our first true and strong image of significance in a nation’s search for its identity on the eve of Federation’s centenary. Taylor’s much exposed yet insufficiently reinforced figures, in their short but vociferous public life, elicited and at the same time became witness to the first popular and focused expression of a significant change in our collective national consciousness. Down by the Lake with Liz and Phil explicitly demonstrated that, in the few years left before 2001, ‘we’ Australians were becoming concerned in more than a mere diarist sense with questions interrogating what being ‘we’ for the past century has meant and what it might mean to be ‘we’ Australians in the next century.