LONDON.- Michael Peels work, while always graphic, political and boldly confrontational, has never promoted specific issues or campaigns. But for the past thirty years or more, he has been holding up a mirror to society through large-scale poster-works and prints whose subjects are power and control, revolt and war, culture and economics. The series of images that he made between 1985 and 1995 under the rubric `Modern World stand as a radical critique of an era that began with the Falklands War in 1982 and has continued under different political regimes into the present century. Looking back at his work from that period is like leafing through a picture history book as the voice of Cassandra whispers from the pages.
Bosnia, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more recent civic disturbances, have all featured strongly in Michaels work, but there is something different in his approach which I think is a consciousness of the frailty and mortality of the human body. This comes through all the way from an early work like Rejoice, Rejoice (1982, Imperial War Museum) to a new work like Riot, which combines images of riot police during the events of 2011 with swirling red and yellow lines on a black ground. These photograms of electrical cable are a formal device which indicates variously telecommunications, cardiovascular systems or automatic writing, as well as making a distant nod to the gestural abstraction of Jackson Pollock.
Coming from a strong Fine Art printmaking tradition, Michaels work has always retained a classical format and medium: excerpts from newsprint and television or illustrations from medical textbooks were screen-printed onto rectangular sheets of paper. His new digital prints are stacked in blocks: apocalyptic dust clouds from exploding bombs, forbidding metal grilles, close-ups of Sterling board with the texture of abstract brush-strokes, and the looming underbellies of civilian aircraft that criss-cross the London sky every two minutes. For good or ill, these are aspects of the modern world.
© Angela Weight 2013