The invitation to a talk from montage artist Peter Kennard was received by me knowing this was an artist I had not heard of. A brief search of his name on the internet revealed that although I may not have recognised his name I certainly had seen many examples of his work over many years in publications and on news reels of demonstrations. Many of his images have become iconic symbols for protest against poor political policies, injustices and threats facing the world such as nuclear war and global warming.
To meet the man behind the images and to hopefully gain an insight into how he conceives and creates his work was an opportunity not to be missed.
The unassuming slightly hunched elderly gent presenting the talk is the outward appearance of a man who’s genius is apparent as soon as he speaks. His passion to give as good as he gets in relation to figures in authority lording over all of society immediately made me feel this man has more in common with Robin Hood in that he steals rhetoric from those in power and delivers their message to the poor without whitewash and gloss. He does this so well and in a way that no one can misinterpret his messages that he has angered many politicians all over the world. I liked him immediately.
There were so many images of Peters that I liked it was difficult to chose a few to talk about but a memorable image springs to mind for its simplicity and impact.
The image shows a representation of our planet in space, lit by a single light against a dark background the blue earth has a single drip hanging below it. The image shouts ‘Global warming’ without a single piece of text or commentary. The image was made using a blue stained ball of ice sprinkled with sand to give the appearance of land. As the ice melted the drip formed.
I like the cleverness with which the image was conceived. The melting polar ice caps, the end result of the planet heating up, here represented by the melting model earth could not be more simple and so very cleverly executed.
Another image I like of Peters is Margaret Thatcher as Queen Victoria. The iron lady (Thatcher) as she was called ‘ruled’ Britain in the 1980’s. Her policies were strict and on many occasions very unfair which led to strikes and riots. Hindsight allows us to look back at the reasons behind her tough line and perhaps offer some justification to some of what Thatcher tried to achieve, but no one I believe can accept all she did was fair or just.
Towards the end of her ‘reign as Prime Minister, even she was getting wrapped up in her power. In one of her last speeches she referred to herself in the plural, (we), echoing the Queen Victoria catch phrase used by so many comics “We are not amused”. I’m guessing Thatcher was not too amused by Peters clever image but I am.