I recently went to visit the Peter Kennard – Unofficial War Artist exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. If you are not familiar with Peter Kennard he is a major British political artist that confronts and creates art that comments on British and world politics, most know for his photomontage work. He has also inspired many other artists with his work such as Banksy. Throughout his carrier he has made art that makes commentary on many controversial events in history, notably his anti-Vietnam War work that he used to express his thoughts of the movement and also the work he created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Above are some of my favourites of the artwork displayed at the exhibition. This series of artwork called STOP is some of Mr. Kennard’s earliest work dating from 1969–1971. At the exhibition it explains that these works were done while he was still a student and the Slade School of Art and are marked as his political awakening. They were created using photographs from magazines and newspapers that were then overlaid with acetate covered in abstract marks and then put through a photographic enlarger. The resulting images were then transferred to canvas using gelatine printing.
As well as newer work there is also displays of his older work covering things like the Cold War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the Archive. There is also the Newspaper (1994) and Reading Room (1997) displays that address aspects of the global power balance.
The exhibition also displays very recent work like Boardroom which was created this year(2015). This artwork was created especially for the Unofficial War Artist exhibition. It features the artist’s personal reflection on the worlds conflict from the late 1960s to now. It incorporates some of Kennard’s most famous imagery and takes a look back at his carrier over the last 50 years. The artwork also shows statistics the inform the viewer of the current levels of arms sales, expenditure and the extent of poverty throughout the world of today. These figures can be quite disturbing to think about.
Personally because of my age and distance from a lot of the events Kennard creates artwork about I don’t feel much emotional response or connection toward some of the messages artwork is trying to put across; however I do very much understand the sentiment behind it. In fact to me a lot of the statistics in the Boardroom display where more impacting that the imagery itself.
I would highly recommend seeing the exhibition and developing your own thoughts on it. Even if you can’t personally connect to the message of some of the work it is still an excellent display of skilled image making to evoke a response.