LifestyleWhats On

‘Profit masks poverty’: Exhibition displays Peter Kennard’s potent political works

With a career spanning almost 50 years, Peter Kennard is one of Britain’s most important political artists.

His adoption of photomontage in the late 1960s restored an association with radical politics within the medium and many of his works have gone on to define.

Many of Mr Kennard’s images have become icons of the medium, defining protest as well as the culture of conflict and crisis in modern history.

From July 23, The Whitechapel Gallery in Whitechapel High Street, will exhibit Archive of Dissent, one of the most extensive displays of the London-based artist’s work to date.

Taking over three galleries within the former Whitechapel Library space, the free exhibition brings together work from across the artist’s five-decade career.

Born in London in 1949, Kennard painted from the age of 13, using a coal shed as a makeshift studio. After securing a scholarship to attend Byam Shaw art school in London before he undertook further study at the Slade in Fitzrovia in 1968.

It was at the Slade – during a year of youth protest against the status quo- that Kennard underwent his political awakening. 

From here his work would cover the Vietnam War, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and Stop the War Coalition campaigns in the 2000s, through to the present wars in Ukraine and Gaza and his ongoing commitment to environmental activism, Mr Kennard has developed a unique visual practice that bridges art and politics.

Mr Kennard said: “My art erupts from outrage at the fact that the search for financial profit rules every nook and cranny of our society. 

“Profit masks poverty, racism, war, climate catastrophe and on and on…Archive of Dissent brings together fifty years of work that all attempt to express that anger by ripping through the mask by cutting, tearing, montaging and juxtaposing imagery that we are all bombarded with daily.”

Mr Kennard’s design for the exhibition takes the form of a constantly evolving archive, much of which will be presented as printed material displayed on walls, placards, in vitrines or on lecterns. 

These include the newspapers where his images were first published, as well as the posters and books through which they continue to circulate.    

The exhibition delves into the artist’s process of making, beginning with a selection of the distinctive photomontages he has been making since the 1970s.

Inspired by the work of John Heartfield, who pioneered montage as a political tool in the 1930s, Kennard’s montages deconstruct familiar images and re-imagines them through different formats.

The works not only serve to expose the relationship between power, capital, war and the destruction of the Earth but also “to show new possibilities emerging from the cracks and splinters of the old reality”. 

Archive of Dissent also includes two of Mr Kennard’s most recent and ambitious installations Boardroom (2023) and Double Exposure (2023) which use light, glass and projection to deconstruct the medium of photomontage, as well as a new work, The People’s University of the East End (2024). 

Mr Kennard said: “It shows what lies behind the mask: the victims, the resistance, the human community saying ‘no’ to corporate and state power. 

“It rails at the waste of lives caused by the trillions spent on manufacturing weapons and the vast profits made by arms companies.”

Visit Whitechapel Gallery between July 23 and November 24 to see Peter Kennard’s Archive of Dissent.

Pictured top: Peter Kennard, Thatcher Unmasked, 1986, Photomontage (Picture: Courtesy the artist, Peter Kennard)

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.