Boudica, historical and mythological figure of Anglo-Saxon culture, was the queen of the Iceni tribe and went down in history for her courage in facing the revolt of the British territories against Rome in the 2nd century AD. The image of Boudica is very popular in English culture so much that it is found in many public representations, an example is the sculpture on Westminster Bridge in London, but it also appears in more underground cultural areas: many musicians have inserted references to this figure in their compositions, like Roisin Murphy or the Liberties. The English artist Penny Goring takes up this figure in turn, making it the main subject of the photographic collage I was a Visionary For Boudica (2015).

Goring returns, with her work, an image of the warrior in which the sacredness of the character is mixed with a more freak and punk version: I was a Visionary for Boudica represents a pregnant woman, a hint perhaps to the primitive representations of fertility, emblems of the maternal and creative figure. At the same time, however, she brings her back to a contemporary context by equipping her with red shoes with high heels, worn by exaggeratedly large and stylized feet, and with a black veil that covers her face.
The image contains, almost scattered, numerous clues that more than Boudica’s mythological traits seem to belong to the artist herself, such as the face under the veil that seems to have the features of the artist herself. With this superimposition and juxtaposition, Goring wants to insist and retrace the sufferings and traumas that have characterized her personal history, and that through the figure of Boudica, makes contemplable and therefore shareable.

This freak divinity is championing a new claim: the black veil and the suffering it brings with it are not a reason to show oneself in one’s weakness but rather to use pain as a constituent element of a struggle. Goring is a visionary of Boudica precisely because she takes up the fighting spirit, the fury and also the firmness that characterizes the great heroes. Her becomes an art of survival: the humor that distinguishes the collage, together with the strangeness that arises from the daring combinations of the different elements, become the antidotes for the pain that is hidden in the history of both the figure of Boudica and the artist.

I was a Visionary for Boudica is part of Penny Goring’s solo exhibition Penny World presented by ICA – Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The exhibition can be visited until 28 September 2022.


Penny Goring
I was a Visionary for Boudica, 2015
Image courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London