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Saturday, 2 January 2016

Peter Kennard: Peace on Earth

The Guardian reports that Peter Kennard, the artist famous for his incendiary photomontages, is giving away a new image responding to the bombing of Syria and the refugee crisis. Kennard is Britain’s most important political artist whose imagery has become synonymous with the modern protest movement.

As a New Year gift, available to download for free in high quality, he and his collaborator, renowned graphic designer Neville Brody, have "produced a work called Peace on Earth featuring what appears to be the Virgin Mary praying – only her halo has been replaced by the CND symbol and her face with planet Earth."

“The idea is to give something back at this time of year, and as a designer,” he says. “I wanted to make an image that makes people think – and isn’t too horrific for them to put on their wall.”

“I use that image of our planet a lot – which is what we’re destroying,” he says. “The refugee crisis is so horrific, and the way human beings are talked about in terms of ‘how many can we take’ is so demeaning. It’s people’s responses that have been human, not the politicians, who are just thinking of their votes. I’m trying to show this enormous outpouring of feeling.”

In a conversation about Art, Design, Protest and Generosity on the RCA website he says:

"At the heart of mobilising positive, peaceful activism is a radical, subversive generosity on the part of artists and designers, which runs counter to any social structure that privileges the ‘I’ over the ‘we’, and refutes the unfestive – but nonetheless accurate – observation that we may no longer know how to give without counting the cost.

Giving breaks the cycle of greed, and encourages people to be generous, community-minded and constructive. It’s about doing something for the sake of change, for the common good – which is what the original peace symbol was about. There’s a refreshing positivity to giving freely, which runs counter to one’s normal transactions in the world.

Anyone who’s been involved in the best bits of peaceful activism knows that mobilising positive human energy is life affirming. Like singing in a Christmas choir, one of the reasons to go on a march is to be there in a group of people who believe the human race isn’t doomed after all.

As artist Jimmy Durham says, ‘Humanity is not a completed project,’ meaning both that we are still here and that we need to try harder. Artists and designers have a long tradition of bending the tools of their trade to that cause, beating swords into aesthetic ploughshares.

The role of art may be to expose the underbelly of society, and the role of design may be to communicate ideas, but add in generosity and you arrive at the joining of makers' hands, the giving of gifts and the will for collective change.

In the festive spirit of munificence, Peter Kennard and Neville Brody have collaborated to produce a new work for our troubled times: Peace on Earth. Download it, print it, share it. We wish you a peaceful new year."

Download Peace on Earth here.

The first major retrospective of Kennard's work is at the Imperial War Museum London until 30 May 2016 and demonstrates how Kennard has consistently confronted issues in world politics and British governmental policy both at home and abroad, inspiring many of today’s politically-aware artists from Mark Wallinger to Banksy.


Steve Mason - Oh, My Lord.

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