Wednesday, 20 May 2015


PETER KENNARD, Unofficial War Artist

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM  until May 30th 2016
I visit hundreds of galleries and other art spaces and am used to discovering variety. Some artists have a particular interest, say landscape, and move gracefully from photography to painting to video. Others stick to one medium, such as glass, but do with it things no one else has done before. But never have I seen so much innovation and passion as in the 5 smallish rooms on the upper floors of the Imperial War Museum, which Peter Kennard's work  is occupying. 

Haywain with Cruise Missiles 1981 Original Photomontage (c) Peter Stannard

The exhibition confirms his status as an artistic outsider, determined to make work which exists  outside the normal channels of the art world and that directly connects with the public.  The original photomontage  Haywain with Cruise Missiles, transforms the warm green peace of the Suffolk countryside into a terror zone. Alongside are displayed posters, pamphlets, badges, placards and T-shirts, lest we forget.

"That sense of ripping into an image, unveiling a surface, going through that surface into an unrevealed truth, is at the core of photomontage. I sit in a room with the tools of my trade and try to pummel these pictures into revealing invisible connections".
Peter Kennard

Newspaper1 1994 80x58x10 (c) Peter Stannard

Each room could have as its motto 'And Now For Something Completely Different', a catch phrase from the hugely successful British TV comedy programme Monty Python's Flying Circus, later made into a film. For example, the fourth gallery recreates a 1997 installation, Reading Room, consisting of 8 wooden lecterns each bearing 2 photographic images of faces photocopied onto the financial pages of newspapers. Using charcoal the images are smudged and blurred so as to appear to merge or dissolve into the stock market figures. 
On the left is a raw and visceral image using carbon toner, charcoal, pastel on newspaper and wood. Claw-like hands reach out to destroy, to eliminate. You can almost smell the charred paper and hear the scratch of the nails as they dig and rip though the news. 

London's Imperial War Museum tells the story of those who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War. Drawing on both the exceptional and the everyday, people. places, ideas and events are used to tell vivid personal events as well as create powerful physical experiences. They reflect war as both a destructive and constructive experience, and challenge us to look at conflict from different perspectives

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