Art Against War: Peter Kennard and the CND Movement

Millennium Gallery, Sheffield, 9th June – 7th October 2018

Great to see all this work together in one place. The work has clear intent, has a distinctive visual aesthetic (subverting established forms, particularly those of the press and advertising), directly engages the viewer and arises from a particular way of working. The short video that accompanies the exhibition gives insight into Kennard’s motivation and methods.

Two quotes stand out for me. The first from the video and the second from the introduction to Read and Simmons (2016).

‘There is this sort of mystique still around what art is, and that you have to go to art school, which is rubbish because art is a fantastic way to explore … your own feelings. The gallery is perhaps the only space in our society where people will spend time looking at something that’s not just … fleeting. So it’s really important to put social and political arguments into that context.’

Art Against War: Peter Kennard

‘Researching reality for me involves ripping photographs out of their context to bring the perpetrators of war and poverty slap bang into the same space as their victims. I want to act as an early warning system, be the canary down the mine. Imagining through images the end result of the direction in which we are heading and picturing people struggling to find another way’.

Peter Kennard in Read, M. & Simmons, S. (2016). Photographers and Research: The role of research in contemporary photographic practice. London: Routledge. p.vii

 It’s the close articulation of (political and personal) expression with engagement of the viewer (and consideration of the context, from poster and pamphlet to the gallery) that is important for me here, and prompts me to think carefully about how my own work, and other forms of image making and circulation, address these issues. This is very different in form and content from my own work, but lots to learn about the importance of focus and ways of engaging viewers, in the gallery and through other modes.