Political cartoonist Cold War Steve: 2021 has been a relentless year for hardware
Ultimate internet artist Cold War Steve described 2021 as a “relentless” year for a political cartoonist.
Real name Christopher Spencer, Cold War Steve’s satirical Photoshop collages are inspired by Dutch Renaissance painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, depicting public figures in dystopian settings and often taking part in outrageous acts in as a nod to real world news.
Reflecting on a political year of pandemic, resignations and controversy, Mr Spencer called 2021 “terrible” but said being able to make art was a therapeutic process.
“It’s endless, isn’t it? I’m glad I have this outlet because otherwise I think I’d be going crazy,” he told the PA news agency.
“It’s just been relentless and I’ve really stepped up my efforts. I know what I’m doing won’t change anything at the top, but it makes me feel better and I’m thinking of others too.
The artist’s 2021 work includes depictions of those following strict lockdown measures juxtaposed with a Downing Street Christmas party – with work showing an elderly man with a cane alone in his bedroom, next to a another image of politicians such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson indulging in cartoon frivolity.
He produced the work after allegations that the No 10 staff broke coronavirus rules with a celebratory party last December, one of many similar allegations in the political sphere in 2021.
“There was all the incompetence of Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings – so you think there would be a bit of respite and then pictures come out of the Christmas parties they were throwing in Downing Street when everyone was separated from their loved ones,” Spencer said.
“It’s a way of processing what’s going on, I mean, the range of emotions with what’s going on, from anger to dismay. I can channel that into one image. (I try) to pass that on.
“The feedback I’m getting is that it helps (people) feel like they’re not alone in feeling what they’re feeling.”
The artist waved at Glasgow’s Cop26 climate summit in October with an image of Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other Cabinet members standing in sewage as the cliffs whites of Dover behind them suggest the country has sunk.
Mr Spencer has admitted some of his work can be ‘really crude’ and ‘mean’, often placing careless-looking politicians in intensive care wards or even placing body bags on the grass in Downing’s garden Street in one piece.
However, he said his work was justified by the actions of politicians, adding: “At the start of the pandemic I was very wary of satirizing it, I didn’t even know whether or not to do light on what was going on, but the government tossed it around until I had to.
“There’s always that period before I press send to release it into the world, where my finger can hover a bit. Some I take right to this line to be acceptable or not.
In February, Mr Spencer dedicated an image to the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy victory over the Mail On Sunday editors, for a ‘personal and private’ letter she wrote to her estranged father.
The piece shows the Duchess surrounded by male reporters while the Duke of York sits apart from the group.
The artist opened up about the nuances and fine details of his works, such as the lawyer in front of Meghan – a nod to the suggestion by some British tabloids that his ‘favorite lawyer snack’ is ‘fuelling rights abuses’ of man, drought and murder”.
“There are a lot of little symbolisms that people pick up on and (can) interpret for themselves,” he said.
Mr Spencer considers the reaction of his more than 360,000 Twitter followers to be part of the art itself.
“I really like that people know that if (the artwork) was in a gallery, the images would be two meters wide and below that would be a scrolling screen of all the comments people have written – because it definitely enhances the experience.”
One of his recent works shows the Prime Minister’s head superimposed on the body of Louis XVI, King of France, as Tory backbench MPs Steve Baker and Andrew Bridgen approach with baseball bats in hand , and England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty is tied to a chair. .
Both MPs criticized Mr Johnson’s Covid restrictions and made headlines when Mr Baker removed Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries from a WhatsApp conversation after defending the Prime Minister over the resignation of Lord Frost.
“I like to have that element of humor and anger and the grotesque, a kind of dark humor that gets the message across in a more dramatic way,” Spencer added.