Peter Kennard

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Peter Kennard (born 17 February 1949[1]) is a London born and based photomontage artist and Senior Research Reader in Photography, Art and the Public Domain[2] at the Royal College of Art.[3] Seeking to reflect his involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement, he turned from painting to photomontage to better address his political views. He is best known for the images he created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the 1970s–80s including a detournment of John Constable's Hay Wain called "Haywain with Cruise Missiles".[4]

Because many of the left-wing organisations and publications he used to work with have disappeared, Kennard has turned to using exhibitions, books and the internet for his work.[5]

Kennard has work in the public collections of several major London museums and the The Arts Council of England.[3] He has his work displayed as part of Tate Britain's permanent collection and is on public view as part of 2013's rehang "A Walk Through British Art".[6]


Kennard originally trained as a painter at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art in London and later at the Royal College of Art, where he is now Senior Research Reader in Photography, Art, and the Public Domain.[5]

Exhibitions and projects[edit]

Peter Kennard abandoned painting in the 1970s in search of new forms of expression that could bring art and politics together for a wider audience. This search has resulted in making photomontage and installation work over many years covering major political events.[3] The visual language he has developed to the present day uses common news imagery, photojournalism and the face.[7] He has often worked in collaboration with writers, photographers, filmmakers and artists such as Peter Reading, John Pilger and Jenny Matthews.

"Dispatches from An Unofficial War Artist" is his autobiography and was published in 2000. In it, Kennard writes about the possibilities of undertaking an aesthetic practice in relation to social change, and considers how his art has interacted with the politics of actual events. The narrative is thematic rather than chronological, showing how a visual motif can be re-used in different contexts. Kennard's original artwork is often reproduced alongside the newspaper or poster in which it appeared. [8]

Kennard has produced a body of work addressing the second Iraq War in 2002.[9] John Berger has said of this work:

In these memorable images, in these images that refuse to be forgotten, go very close to the griefs being inflicted – they are still-lifes of grief, and, at the same time includes the time-scale of the mountain. They are the opposite of news flashes. They are full of history’s irony, fury and anger at the mistakes made in its name. They reveal the tawdriness of the Gang’s half-truths. They acknowledge the pain of what is happening. They might be quoting Simone Weil who wrote: “There is a natural alliance between truth and affliction, because both of them are mute supplicants, eternally condemned to stand speechless in our presence.” And they are exemplary because, in face of such inevitable speechlessness, they remind us of the need to speak out in protest, the protests of the dead and the living.[10]

@earth (Peter Kennard book) cover.jpeg

One of Kennard's latest projects is 2011's @earth, a story without words told in the language of photomontage.[11] It takes the form of a small book priced at £9.99, published by the Tate Gallery, which Kennard believed was a reasonably cheap and accessible way of getting his message to young people outside the artworld.[5] The book contains a variety of images from Kennard's 40-year career and, as a result, attracts the criticism that its targets are too general. Kennard's reply was that he wanted "to encourage people to think about their own situation and activate, but I'm not trying to tell them to do this or that. I'm just trying to show how I see the world at the moment."[5]

Of Kennard's @earth project, street artist Banksy has said "I take my hat off to you Sir, @earth looks great". Author and political activist Naomi Klein wrote

"What you hold in your hands is a harrowing X-ray of the shadow side of the world.... If there's a word that's worth a thousand pictures, it's @earth."[12]

The idea has expanded to a re-appropriation and re-distribution of his images through online platforms such as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. G8 Protest Posters[13] is the latest of these projects that shares images “designed for protest”. Created in 2013 in reaction to the 39th G8 Summit in Enniskillen, Kennard has encouraged the public to "print, Tweet, Facebook, email and share these images as a sign of protest". He sees online distribution sites as "a valuable addition to the dissident artists toolbox. G8 is a charade masquerading as a serious conference, my posters attempt to rip through the lies and point to the world as in fact it is."[14]

He has also executed a number of guerrilla street installations[15] and has said "if world leaders insist on assaulting our lives and livelihoods, let’s hit back by assaulting their eyes." [16]

The first major retrospective of Kennard's work will be held at the Imperial War Museum for one year from May 2015.[17]


  1. ^ My Art | Chronology. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Royal College of Art Photography staff: Peter Kennard. Retrieved 5 November 2011. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RCA_profile" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d Diane Smyth, Pictures without words, British Journal of Photography, 24 May 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Tate Shots Film: Peter Kennard". 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kennard, P., Art Attack, New Statesman, 17 January 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  10. ^ Peter Kennard: award (book with series of pigment prints and essay by John Berger) [1], Henry Peacock Gallery, London, 2004
  11. ^ Peter Kennard Tank Magazine interview by Leah Borromeo
  12. ^ (at) earth. Tate Bookshop website (these quotes are also reproduced on the back cover of the @earth book).
  13. ^ G8 Protest Posters by Peter Kennard
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Peter Kennard: G8 protest posters
  17. ^

External links[edit]