New Statesman – Art attack: “The phone rings; the number is withheld. It’s Banksy. He wants to know whether I can go to Bethlehem over Christmas. He is putting on an exhibition, bringing together like-minded artists from all over the world to raise awareness of the situation in Palestine. Like the annual guerrilla art shows that have taken place in London for the past six years, it will be called ‘Santa’s Ghetto’. Two weeks later, I find myself involved in an experience that transforms my ideas about what artists can do in the face of oppression.
We are living through an exciting time for political art. I have been an artist for 40 years, and my work has always focused on political and social issues. In the 1970s, I started making photo montage work, drawing on imagery from the Vietnam War and the row over nuclear armaments (a retrospective opens at the Pump House Gallery this month). Since the build-up to the Iraq War in 2002, I have been collaborating with a younger artist, Cat Picton Phillipps, developing new techniques and using digital technology to expose the lies that led to the invasion and the subsequent humanitarian disaster.
Over this period, our work has become linked to a group of young artists who work outside the official art world. Most of them started out painting graffiti on walls. The central figure in this group is Banksy, but although he attracts most of the press coverage, he is surrounded by a growing band of talented, politically committed artists. Our associates come from Spain and Italy, the US, Britain and Palestine. Since the era of the Bush/Blair war in Iraq, this movement has become increasingly politicised, just as my generation was politicised by the war in Vietnam. These are artists who want to connect with the real world, rather than work for the market, which has more of a stranglehold on art than ever. They combine creativity with protest, insisting that art should be more than the icing on the cake for the super-rich.”