Contemporary Art and War

Artwork and interviews from a selection of the artists’ who were featured in IWM North’s Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War exhibition.

  • Photo Op

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    kennardphillipps are Peter Kennard and Cat Picton-Phillipps who have worked together since 2002, initially to make art in response to the invasion of Iraq. Their work is shown in a range of contexts, on line, in galleries and on protest marches. They describe their work as an integral part of political activism, a direct means of communication: 'the visual arm of protest'. Photo Op, depicting Tony Blair taking a ‘selfie’ in front of a huge explosion, has become an iconic image. It was produced in response to the anger they felt at the Government’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, in the face of widespread public protest. They describe their need to create something that reflected and validated this public opposition, sentiments they felt were not reflected in the mainstream media at the time.

    Collection IWM. © kennardphillipps

  • Camp Boundary

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    In 2002, IWM commissioned Paul Seawright to respond to the War in Afghanistan, which had started the previous October. He was interested in how an artist might engage with conflict in a way that was different to the dramatic spectacles of photojournalism. The resulting photographs of minefields show a seemingly empty landscape, which in reality is both lethal and inaccessible. He says that he had ‘always been fascinated by the invisible, the unseen, the subject matter that doesn't easily present itself to the camera’. Seawright’s work highlights the changing nature of contemporary warfare with its increasing emphasis on remote technology and hidden enemies.

    Collection IWM. © Paul Seawright

  • Cyanotype [RAF Sock]

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    Annabel Dover explores the relationship between objects and memory and the social relationships that these objects represent. She highlights the power attributed to objects as markers of memory. These prints were produced from Second World War family keepsakes. The prints' distinctive colour comes from the method used in their production, in which an object is placed on treated paper and exposed to the sun, leaving a shadow. The items depicted belie the drama that they represent: the hat was worn by Dover’s grandmother when she received a telegram stating her husband was missing in action. The sock was worn by her stepfather when he was shot down and injured over Germany whilst serving with the RAF. His leg was amputated, but the nurses that cared for him washed and mended the sock. It became, for him, symbolic of their compassion.

    Collection IWM.  © Annabel Dover