British anti war artist Peter Kennard

Poster by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips about the occupation of Iraq

This is a poster, called ‘Blairaq’, by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips about the occupation of Iraq.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Montage with a message

(Monday 03 March 2008)

Uncertified Documents: Peter Kennard
Pump House Gallery, London SW11

CHRISTINE LINDEY is moved by a striking collection of ‘photographic sentences’ by long-time political designer and teacher Peter Kennard.

LIBERAL democracies shout of freedom, but they control the power of radical art partly by ignoring it and partly by assimilating it, not least into the rarified context of commercial galleries.

Socialist artists have long grappled with this problem and the linked one of how to survive economically.

Peter Kennard has made his living mostly from teaching. When he was younger, he shunned the gallery system because it was ideologically impure. He now believes that it is good for the public, particularly the young, to see how his work was made.

Yet he still opposes the mainstream. He has chosen to display more than 30 years of his work at the Pump House because this is a non-commercial gallery in Battersea Park, London, a venue likely to attract mostly locals and passers-by.

A free broadsheet forms an important part of this exhibition. With an anti-war poster on one side and an informative interview on the other, it offers an astute discussion on art, socialism and possible ways in which to resist the power of the state and conventional patronage.

In it, Kennard says that the exhibition is “about communicating social and political ideas to an interested audience, but not necessarily an art audience.”

In the 1960s, Kennard studied at the Slade, a school then dominated by abstract expressionism. His involvement in the anti-Vietnam war movement led to frustrated attempts to link his political commitment to his painting. His discovery of the photomontages of Heartfield, Rodchenko and Soviet Constructivist ideas gave him the break-through that he needed.

In the early 1970s, he began to make photomontages for the left press where he valued collaborating with non-artists as part of a production process.

He explains: “It is like being a journalist, but, instead of words, I was constructing sentences from photographs; montage is about opening up what is silent in society.”

He later went on to work for progressive organisations, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Greater London Council, New Statesman, Pluto books and the Stop the War Coalition, often for free or for very little.

Kennard’s work is not made to be seen in the contemplative context of art galleries. Designed for book jackets, posters, postcards, magazines and newspapers, it aims to create a quick reaction in the often inattentive viewer. Yet his powerful visual imagination, combined with a clear understanding of social and political realities, has produced montages whose content often transgress the specific issues for which they were made and convey universal meanings.

Selecting his images with precision, he combines them in deceptively simple ways to produce devastating political and social comment. For example, the poster in which a cruise missile breaks against the CND logo.

The images often originate in a response to what people say. The montage of Thatcher‘s face superimposed on Queen Victoria’s state portrait was a reaction to that prime minister’s call for a return to Victorian values.

When Thatcher’s government sited the missile base in Constable country, Kennard’s riposte was Hay-Wain with Cruise missiles, 1980, in which the cart in Constable’s famous painting is loaded with cruise missiles instead of hay.

Many of the original working montages are hung alongside the resulting printed publications.

For example, we see small cut-out photographs of cruise missiles and a tiny gas-masked cart boy pasted on to a postcard of the Constable painting. Next to it is the double-page spread of a magazine in which this image first appeared as an illustration to an article by EP Thompson condemning the siting of cruise missiles in Britain. In turn, we see Kennard’s image printed as a postcard in aid of the anti-cruise campaign.

The 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war marked the beginning of his current collaboration with Cat Picton Phillips, a younger artist who works with digital imagery.

She initiated him into the mysteries of working on a scanner rather than with manual montage techniques. He encouraged her to “put some sense of physicality back into that pixelated medium” by dropping dust, oil or blood on to the scanner.

In 2005, they created their War on War room at the East group exhibition, Norwich. There, with a scanner and printer, they made anti-war posters and invited the public to create their own. A petrol pump becomes a gun as bullets fly from its nozzle – war for oil visualised in one hard-hitting image. …

Exhibition runs until March 30. Entry free. Ring (020) 7350-0523 for more information.

See video on this exhibition here.

Did British troops murder 20 Iraqis at Amara? Here.

9 thoughts on “British anti war artist Peter Kennard

  1. Resist in March

    March 19 marks the 5th Anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Peace and justice organizations will hold actions around the country and in Washington, DC to demand an end to the funding of the occupation, along with the impeachment of the president and vice president who launched it. For the full range of activities, see

    The timing of these efforts could not be better, with Congress considering another $105 billion for the occupation of Iraq, with Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz putting the true costs of the occupation over $3 trillion, and with awareness growing that Congress can simply stop voting on additional funds. Here’s what we want our Representatives to do:


    MARCH 10-12 in Washington DC: Stop-Loss Congress

    While Congress plans a vacation from March 15th to 30th, Bush’s stop-loss policy requires soldiers to involuntarily extend their tours and prolong the occupation. It is time to Stop-Loss Congress!

    On Monday March 10, and Tuesday March 11, we will deliver “official” stop-loss notices to all members of Congress to notify them that all of their LEAVES, VACATIONS and HOME VISITS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED until every soldier and mercenary is home from Iraq. On Wednesday March 12, we will take nonviolent action on Capitol Hill.


    MARCH 13-16, 2008 (Thursday-Sunday): Winter Soldier

    Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War will testify in Silver Spring, Maryland to crimes witnessed and committed in Iraq. Audio and video of panels will be available live online, on satelite TV, and on Pacifica radio.

    Local events supporting Winter Soldier, and other events for peace, justice, and impeachment:


    MARCH 16 to 18, 2008 (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) in Washington, D.C.: Training, Lobbying, Restoring the Constitution

    March 17th and 18th All day trainings & workshop at the Warehouse Theatre in preparation for March 19th

    March 18th, Tuesday: CODEPINK Action Day to Take Back the Constitution:

    Events are also planned around the country on March 17-18, including events in support of impeachment and demanding an end to funding the occupation. See:

    Impeachment advocates are using this opportunity to advance a new strategy modeled on what achieved the resignation of Richard Nixon:

    A reborn Students for a Democratic Society has planned campus events on March 17 to 21.


    MARCH 19, 2008 (Wednesday) Nonviolent Civil Resistance in All 435 Congressional Districts and in the Nation’s Capital on the Fifth Anniversary of the Occupation of Iraq

    Locations in each congressional district, to be determined locally, will include congressional offices (Congress Members and Senators will be in their districts on this day), federal buildings, military recruiters, weapons makers, war profiteers, or corporate media outlets. In Washington, with Congress out of town, the focus will be on war profiteers in the military industrial disaster-capitalism complex. Events will include roles for people not wanting to risk arrest.

    LOCAL EVENTS: Post Yours! Update it.



    Resources for nonviolent activism: HERE.
    Resources for promoting your event in the media: HERE.
    Flyers and posters with room for local info: HERE.
    Ideas for local actions: HERE.


    World Can’t Wait Events in DC on 19th

    Join in acts of creative non-violent civil resistance:


    Sick of It Day

    Something else that anyone anywhere can do on the 19th:


    Student Involvement and Leadership

    March 20 SDS Campus Protests

    Students for a Democratic Society Campus Events

    March 22 Teach In at American University in Washington DC


    March 20-23 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

    Stick around to TALK about what you’ve been doing, with Split This Rock in Washington, D.C.


    Forward this message to everyone you know!

    To subscribe, create a free account here:


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