Peter Kennard Exhibition at The IWM

We were asked to visit the Imperial War Museum’s retrospective on Peter Kennard, presumably to see the work of an artist who clearly has a point he wishes to get across in his work. I should rephrase that, since every graphic designer should have a point they clearly want to get across in each and every piece of work they do. Kennard’s body of work is clearly political in nature and reflects his personal opinions on the world we live in.

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Take a good look at her face. She may have seen herself this way, but the divisiveness her politics have caused during and since the eighties, rules out anything short of some sort of Cromwell-esk rebellion if this had ever happened

In his early work, his tools of choice were photo-montage and manipulation. A good couple of decades before photoshop gave ten-year olds the power to equal the output of professionals, Kennard was making it look easy, and more importantly, was becoming the voice for those who wished to let their feelings be known when it came to war, nuclear (dis)armament and the like.

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His imagery is almost crude in it’s directness. This is no doubt why it has such appeal

Kennard’s work is not difficult to grasp. When a missile erupts  from the planet like a bullet shot through an apple, the meaning is clear. Again with an armed soldier kicking the planet like a football, you don’t need a master’s in art history to figure out where he’s going with that.

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Welcome to the G8 indeed

Having gone to the Font exhibition previously, and having found it to be difficult to decipher without assistance and a great deal of desire to do so, I found Kennard’s work to be more agreeable. Now, I don’t want everything in the world to be instantly understandable, just as I don’t want everything to be contrived and confusing; it’s always better to have options. That said, if you asked me which exhibition I’d go back to, it would be Kennard’s hands down and that’s not just because his exhibition had more stuff there.

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Unfortunately, the message of these pieces feels poignant even now

Kennard’s work is a clear representation of his political views and is an excellent example of an artist defining himself through their work. This shows one way that we students, as we create our own manifestos, can show who we are through the work we make. 

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As Jeremy Corbyn takes flak from saying Britain doesn’t need Nuclear missiles in 2016, we really haven’t come very far, have we?

As time went on, Kennard moved away from photo-manipulation as the technology to make it easier came along. He then made some work of a decidedly subtler nature.

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Some of Kennard’s later work

The Reading Room section shows financial times broadsheets covered with the smudged, blurry faces of people one may choose to describe as disillusioned, which would be leading, but there you go. These broadsheets are placed on lecterns reminiscent of the ones Kennard remembers from libraries, growing up, that gave the papers a sort of gravitas. The room is a recreation of the original exhibition that took place at the Gimpel Fils gallery in 1997.

It juxtaposes the individual with the ever present international financial markets and the faceless statistics that we’re so used to today.

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One of the lecterns from Reading Room.

I do tend to gravitate towards black and white graphic illustration like this. Is it because any work that predominantly uses black reminds me of the comic books I like,  like Brian Bolland’s run on Judge Dredd, or Shogun Executioner by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima or because the simplicity is it’s strength, or because I think ‘Hey, I could do that, and not break the bank’? Who knows?

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One more for the road…

Irregardless, at the Peter Kennard exhibition I found some of the best use of photo montage I’ve ever seen (and am quite prepared to rethink my position that collage is for five-year-olds) and some great inspiration for how to go about defining myself through my work.

Now, there’s plenty of stuff that was there that I haven’t talked about, but guess what? Good news! The exhibition is still on (as I write. Don’t blame me if it isn’t when you read this. Just wait some more until someone invents a time machine and then come back and see it). You have until 30th of May 2016 to go see it. And it is free entry, so Check out all the details here then go get some Kennard son!

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