Magazine

Peter Kennard: A very unofficial war artist

His art has been inspired by protest movements - but Peter Kennard says his aim is not to create propaganda. His eye-catching work is now on show at the Imperial War Museum in London.

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Media captionThe art of Peter Kennard

Best known for the distinctive photography montages from the early decades of his career, Peter Kennard's later works have seen him try new techniques - as technology advanced.

Kennard's Decoration series of giant paintings, which combine digital prints worked over in oil, were created as a direct response to the invasion of Iraq.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Decoration 6 (2003-4) and Decoration 8 (2003-4) - by Peter Kennard

The two featured here show medals with ribbons made from ripped and frayed American flags.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Decoration 8 (2003-4) (detail) - by Peter Kennard

The medals have been substituted. One has become the helmet of an American soldier - with the number of kills listed in groups of five.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Decoration 6 (2003-4) (detail) - by Peter Kennard

A hooded man hanging beneath the clasp on another of the artworks aims to remind people of the prisoner abuse by US troops at Abu Ghraib jail.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Decoration 8 (2003-4) (detail) - by Peter Kennard

As an artist, Kennard says it is important for him to reflect current events - rather than give people a "history lesson".

His images have have inspired other artists from Mark Wallinger to Banksy.

More recently, Kennard has blended statistics with his thought-provoking montages - to press home his message.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Values (photograph taken in 1974) - by Peter Kennard

On this plate, coins replace food - as the numbers and wording reflect the number of people on the planet who lack the diet for a healthy life.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption Values (detail) by Peter Kennard by Peter Kennard

There is now much more of a social consciousness among artists - says Kennard - which wasn't there 50 years ago, or even as recently as the 1990s.

He says there is a new generation that wants to use current events to make people think - including global warming and human rights,

Kennard's last image shows Earth as a human head - with missiles sticking out as hair - and the torso of a starving child underneath.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption War Head (photo taken 1983) - by Peter Kennard

That image is juxtaposed with a giant financial figure - of more than $1.7 trillion - claimed to be the total amount of money spent on global military expenditure in 2013.

Kennard says he is trying to make people think and show the "stupidity and horror" of the way the world is being run.

Image copyright Peter Kennard/IWM
Image caption War Head (detail) - by Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist can be seen at the Imperial War Museum in London from 14 May 2015 - 30 May 2016.

All images subject to copyright - Peter Kennard / Imperial War Museum.

Photofilm images: Warhead 1 (1981), Protect and Survive (1981), STOP 11 (1970), STOP 30 (1972), Earth Oil Explosion (1985), Crushed Missle (1980), Newspaper 1 (1994), Newspaper 1 (1994).

Photofilm music by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and EMI Production Music.