Peter Kennard On The Harsh Realities Of War At Imperial War Museum
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Peter Kennard was half of the team behind the infamous image of Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of an explosion. Through his art Kennard has campaigned consistently for peace and decreasing the gap between rich and poor in the world, and now he has a retrospective at the Imperial War Museum.
The show opens with four banners featuring shredded US and UK flags, a hooded captive and a helmet with a tally of kills — it's a clear sign that what follows won't be easy viewing.
There are several of Kennard's trademark surreal juxtapositions such as John Constable's The Hay Wain carrying missiles, and a skeleton crowned by a mushroom cloud. Many of these have a lasting visual impact — an old Labour party poster features a hand crushing a missile and the G8 is depicted as players around a poker table with nuclear missiles as chips.
Another powerful series shows hands clawing at pages filled with statistics of share prices. Though indecipherable to most, they are the numbers that drive the corporate world and are shown here as the cause of much of the poverty and the inequality in the world.
This exhibition is filled with posters, newspaper clippings and books, but the most shocking revelations are saved for the end. A room filled with work is also peppered with terrifying statistics such as an estimated 262 million people who have been killed by their own governments in the 20th century and 11 nuclear missiles that have been lost and never recovered by the US.
We're the first to acknowledge there are wider issues within the thorny subject of war than set out in Peter Kennard's clear anti-war stance. However, this exhibition is an important reminder of the cost of war in lives and suffering, a cost we're largely sheltered from in our daily lives.
Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist is on at Imperial War Museum until 30 May 2016. Entrance is free and it's open daily 10am-6pm.
Last Updated 18 May 2015