The news is full of brutal images – and the British painter John Keane is trying to come to terms with them. He reduces pictures to their barest elements to make us look at them anew. His painting Aggregation of Terror shows simply a vertical, orange bar alongside a slightly longer vertical, black bar. It represents the horrific videos of a standing Isis fighter clad in black above a kneeling prisoner in an orange jumpsuit.

“I was particularly intrigued by the atrocities, the decapitations in the Syrian desert,” Keane says. “But it’s very hard to do. It’s very hard to find a way in that isn’t graphic.”

Keane also paints powerful individuals with global influence like Vladimir Putin and Rupert Murdoch. “It’s my way of dealing with people who I think exercise some sort of power or control over our lives, my life,” he says. “It’s my way, I suppose, my feeble way of grabbing back that power because I can use their image any way I like.”

Keane spoke to the BBC World Service in January 2015. A new exhibition of his work opens on 20 May at the Flowers Gallery in London.

You can see more videos from the BBC World Service on their Youtube channel.

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