“Peter Kennard: an unofficial war artist”

“An average of 22 US Army veterans commit suicide every day, 1 every 65 minutes.”

This is one of the stunning statements that Peter Kennard gather in his last installation in his exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. In this installation that takes up one whole room we can find a great amount of data related to the 20th century conflicts til now and its consequences. It’s organised by the number they represent and then these numbers can be found juxtaposed over different b/w photographies and photomontages made by himself about the same topic. Moreover, some pics on the top show peace symbols too. Although this one called “Boardroom” is probably the most astonishing room of the whole retrospective, there are three other rooms before:

room 4

Boardroom installation.   

In the first one we can find a collection of various big size paintings of his early years when he was still a fine arts student. They reflect his inherent interest on political activism and some influences of both dadaism pieces and the anti-nazism work of John Heartfield.

room 1

Painting of Peter Kennard (room 1)

Besides, in the next room what really captivated me was the wide range of photomontages against the war made in a very critical and ironic way. He was kind of laughing about death and the fact of humans killing other humans. He definitely took the skeleton and the skulls to iconically represent the death.

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Different photomontages of Peter Kennard (Room 3)

However, on the third room his work became more conceptual. The walls there were covered with different stripped newspapers opened on the financial pages and with hands printed on to symbolise his frustration and desire to discover to unwrap the truth behind the information provided by the big companies and the government’s reports about economy.

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“Newspaper” by Peter Kennard

Similarly his work “Faces” were supposed to face some faces immersed in the dark and without mouth. They are supposed to represent in a very smart and subtle way how citizens are vulnerable and voiceless in front of hostil situations and pointless conflicts.

All in all, Peter Kennard’s retrospective exhibition of his more than 50 years of career was a harsh tour through 20th century conflicts like the IIWW and its consequences as well as the French Spring in 1968 with the students riots against the government or the hard episodes of injustice and disputes going on in countries like Syria. Peter Kennard did a great job focusing on the part that innocent people played on this kind of sadly contemporary struggles and their active and important participation in some cases. Thus, at the end, nothing is just one person’s fault, and we are all human beings who suffer an originate what happens in this world. Therefore, as the “Boardroom “installation reflected, there’s no singular number: we have to think global as if we were one to be empathic with those ones who are unfortunately living the no so nice face of life.

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Some old pics of the French Spring and the students riots in 1968.

Don’t think about it when it is too late:

“An average of 22 US Army veterans commit suicide every day, 1 every 65 minutes.”

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