Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist at the Imperial War Museum
Since coming to political awareness at the age of 17, almost 50 years ago, Peter Kennard’s artistic creations have consistently sought to expose the horror of war and poverty. This collaboration with the Imperial War Museum is the first to create a retrospective spanning Kennard’s work from schoolboy drawings to a new installation entitled Boardroom, created especially for the exhibition. There’s also a publication entitled Unofficial War Artist that is released with this exhibition, which contains the most influential of Kennard’s work through his career.
The master of the photomontage – a method of collating different photographs to create a new image – each room of Unofficial War Artist is a separate space in which to explore different aspects of this creative form. Decoration (2004), which combines oil painting with digital prints, is a powerful opening to the exhibition as the gravestone-esque montage’s tower over those who enter.
Kennard also explores the material processes that it took to create his earliest works. What can now be done in seconds using modern technology such as Photoshop used to take hours in the darkroom. Painstaking attention to detail was needed in resizing images and cutting out parts to fit together as a whole. In many ways this exhibition is an exploration not only of Kennard’s work but also the development of the photomontage. As doctored images have gained more widespread use in society, their ability to shock is lessened. Thus explorations in 3D have emerged.
Newspaper is the most powerful of the rooms. Physical financial newspapers have faces photocopied and then smudged with charcoal; these traces of faces are reminiscent of the danger and destruction of nuclear weapons caused in Hiroshima and Nagosaki. The theme of the danger of nuclear weapons is one that runs through Kennard’s work. Charcoal hands tear these papers, the image versus the reality.
Constrained by space, the complete collections of these different periods cannot be shown but those that are provide a provocative look into the decades-long activist work of this prolific pacifist artist.
Photos: Fabio Piazza
Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist is at the Imperial War Museum until 30th May 2016, for further information visit here.