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Peter Kennard – renowned political artist and activist exhibits at mac birmingham

With an artistic practice spanning almost 50 years, using analogue and digital techniques alongside a trusted scalpel to produce monumental photomontages in response to global atrocities, injustice and war, Peter Kennard, is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most important political artists. Published extensively in newspapers and magazines across the world, on placards and posters, his new exhibition: Off Message, showing at mac birmingham from Saturday 24 September until Sunday 27 November, brings together his most significant works from 1968 to the present day, including an update to his Boardroom piece, first shown at the Imperial War Museum in 2015, which now responds to the shifting political landscape. Accompanying the exhibition will be a broadsheet newspaper guide, including an exclusive interview with Kennard, who shares his early influences and campaigning interests alongside images from his work.

As an active campaigner himself, Kennard’s images for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), seen on placards and street posters, including the oft used Broken Missile, are among the best known, while collaborations with fellow artists including Banksy, Cat Phillipps and spoken word poet Kate Tempest - recently designing Kate’s upcoming album cover: Let Them Eat Chaos, reflect an enduring relevance and currency in his work. The Boardroom installation, which features early and current work, surrounds the viewer with the atrocities of war - from the atom bombs which destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the Vietnam War, leading right up to the present day to Syria and the millions of refugees escaping for their lives, in addition to issues of climate change and oil. While enveloped in the horrors of war, it includes shocking statistics on the money spent, financing war.

Commenting on the piece, Kennard said: ‘…..It’s meant to act as an early – or late - warning system. It’s a tool to encourage the viewer to relate statistical facts to everyday life globally over the last seventy years. It’s not propaganda telling you what to think. It presents the material hidden by our corporate media…..’

Kennard’s use of painting with oil and digital scanning are used to the fore with Decoration, a series of monumental canvasses made in 2003 and 2004 – originally conceived in 1982, he uses the idea of ribbons from medals, with the results of conflicts attached, instead of the medals themselves – a warship engulfed in flames for example. Commenting on the technique Kennard commented: ‘….with the advent of the flatbed scanner [I] was able to scan torn miniature flags attached to a clasp and then attach images based on what was happening daily in Iraq under the clasp. The paintings are a mixture of scanned material and oil paint. I have always been concerned with trying to combine the autographic and the photographic and with digital printing I can merge the two…..’

Art for social change and awareness pervades the entire exhibition and his career, commenting on art and the impact it can make, Kennard said: ‘….I don’t believe art in itself can change the world but when it is aligned with campaigning groups it can become the visual arm of protest and communicate directly to people…..’

Kennard’s decision to exhibit at mac, an arts centre, located in a diverse community within inner city Birmingham, echoes his desire to ensure his work is seen by as wide an audience as possible. He commented: ‘I think mac is a perfect place to show my work. It is very much part of the local community, where people of all ages appear to consider it very much a part of their lives. It is a great atmosphere to show my work in, without the respectful hush that pervades many cultural citadels…I always believe that art for social change should be accessible…[mac] has a creative energy that encourages people to open up to ideas so that they become creators rather than consumers, it demonstrates that the arts, if they are publicly funded, can be an integral part of all our lives.’

Peter Kennard: Off Message is produced by mac birmingham and curated by Craig Ashley. It has been realised with support from a/political and Arts Council England, with support from the Royal College of Art.

Evening Viewing – Thurs 29 September, 6pm – 8pm at mac

mac will be hosting an evening viewing of: Off Message on 29 September. Peter Kennard will be in attendance. If you would like to attend please RSVP to: marcia.springer@macbirmingham.co.uk.

For press enquiries please call Marcia Springer, Senior Communications Manager, on 0121 446 3237 or email marcia.springer@macbirmingham.co.uk

Image: Peter Kennard. Broken Missile (1980). Tate Collection. Courtesy of the artist.

‘….I don’t believe art in itself can change the world but when it is aligned with campaigning groups it can become the visual arm of protest and communicate directly to people…..’

Peter Kennard, Artist

I think mac is a perfect place to show my work. It is very much part of the local community, where people of all ages appear to consider it very much a part of their lives. It is a great atmosphere to show my work in, without the respectful hush that pervades many cultural citadels…I always believe that art for social change should be accessible…[mac] has a creative energy that encourages people to open up to ideas so that they become creators rather than consumers, it demonstrates that the arts, if they are publicly funded, can be an integral part of all our lives.’

Peter Kennard, Artist

….with the advent of the flatbed scanner [I] was able to scan torn miniature flags attached to a clasp and then attach images based on what was happening daily in Iraq under the clasp. The paintings are a mixture of scanned material and oil paint. I have always been concerned with trying to combine the autographic and the photographic and with digital printing I can merge the two…..’

Peter Kennard, Artist, commenting on the techniques used for his piece entitled: Decoration