Photography, photomontage, paintings and mixed media exhibition
Imperial war museum, London.
Date of visit: January 24th, 2016
Curator: Richard Slocombe.
Location, setting, atmosphere:
Paradoxically set in the Imperial War Museum which, presumably, houses pro-war memorabilia. It was set in four spaces all dealing with different aspects of Kennard’s take on wars in general & the Iraq war in particular. The spaces were relatively small so you were very close to the items on display which made it quite oppressive.
- wide historical catchment implying that the principle factors apply to all contemporary war settings.
- the spaces could accommodate large as well as small exhibits.
- you could get close to the exhibits even though the reflections off the glass fronts meant that you had to dance around the pieces.
- not well publicised: I had actually come to the venue to see the Lee Millar exhibition & stumbled on this one by accident.
Examples of work:
- His art work is superb & I had not realised that his Decoration series was a series of paintings.
- The collages & photomontages were exceptional for their time & are still relevant & valid today.
- His blunt use of numbers every where echoes the apocryphal statement:” A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” attributed to Josef Stalin in 1943. The magnitude of the statistics made me feel incapable of comprehending the scale of human suffering – I felt number numb after having seen the exhibition.
- His small oil paintings of faces emerging from the black background without a context, titled Face (2003), are starkly different from the rest of the work. It still talks of globalisation – where does the face come from – Kurdistan or London? It still talks of communication – or the lack of it – and still trying to tell a story. We are implicated in their story – are the powerless trying to emerge or are they going back into obscurity? They are voiceless – Kennard has not given them mouths – can we empathise? This is the question the author forces us to ask ourselves throughout the exhibition.
- The physical layering of the material (see featured image) which consisted of photos, statistics , business cards of those companies which profit from the wars & the information cards pasted on the railings, all present a very different way of conflating the information & making it make sense.
What I took away with me about the work:
- The immense talent of the author in his ability to make us react to his work through the vast range of his expression.
- The commitment of the author is relentless.
- Words are of secondary importance (but the concept of numbers is essential) in understanding his ideas.
What I took away with me about me:
- I could never hope to achieve such a standard of expression.
- The more exhibitions I see the more I realise that I do not have to restrict my practice to photographs only. I must try collages & photomontage – perhaps in a sketchbook!
- try a first photo montage.
Star rating: 5*