I was lucky enough this week to attend a lecture by Peter Kennard. While I’ll admit to not being massively familiar with his work before hand it’s always fascinating to get some insight into the art and photograph world from those who’ve been around it as long as he has. Coming from a painting background and having been a photography teacher at Royal College of Art Kennard has a bit of that old art school vibe about him, even if it’s in that very punk way of someone who was active during the 60’s and 70’s.
The majority of Kennards work and that which he’s most known for is his photomontage work which drew a lot of attention during Vietnam and the protests surrounding the war. It’s interesting how much of his most iconic work like ‘Haywain with Cruise Missiles’ (1980) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, being reused and recycled in more recent anti war and anti missile protest.
While most of Kennard’s work was done with the intent of spreading the anti war message I find it interesting that he’s so into the idea of showing work at galleries, seeing it as important to do so but given that his work is generally most at home on a protest placard it’s almost subversive to do so but I suppose that’s the point.
The rough and ready, crudeness of much of his work which attests to the pre-photoshop world it was created in isn’t visually to my personal taste but I certainly agree with Kennard’s view that we in the west are in a unique position to freely produce political work and challenge our government so aligning our artwork with our politics is almost a responsibility. If that’s your sort of thing of course.
Personal taste side there’s no denying just how prolific Kennard’s work is and how it has inspired younger artists for years, including but certainly not limited too the likes of Banksy and the positive impact of his work is obvious. Kennard considers his work to be about encouraging people to think and critique the world around them as opposed to selling an opinion and that’s an important distinction. Being able to question the world around us is important if we ever want to affect positive change.