You, Me & Cold War Steve
- Brian Donaldson
- 26 September 2021
Wit and wisdom are accompanied by a dark weirdness in Cold War Steve's DIY exhibition which mercilessly savages the British political establishment
Somewhere between the Sgt Pepper album cover and the fevered brow of a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape lies the digital photomontage work of Cold War Steve. The artist actually known as Christopher Spencer has had a prolific old time since his satirical collages emerged on social media in 2016, the outpourings of a parodic mind stuffed full with ideas borne from the post-Brexit fall-out, the misrule of Trump and a pandemic that brought the pain of the first two into horrific perspective.
Akin to a rolling soap opera, Spencer's cast of characters features some steady regulars. There are predictable figures such as Boris Johnson, his pal the one-term US president, Dominic Cummings, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Michael Gove, all mingling with the less obvious likes of serial killers (Harold Shipman, Fred West), English football managers of the veteran variety (Neil Warnock, Sam Allardyce) and TV personalities (a flared 1970s Bruce Forsyth or Piers Morgan baying at Meghan Markle in the stocks). Sitting or standing aloof from it all, looking on helpless and aghast at humanity's fiesta of excess, is the Zelig-esque Steve McFadden (Phil from EastEnders), a bloke of the people who appears in the majority of these images. If Cold War Steve's work had a narrator, it would most likely be Charlie Brooker.
You, Me & Cold War Steve is currently showing across the UK in selected spaces, including Edinburgh's Out Of The Blue. Though in the finest of DIY traditions, and with Spencer's blessing, anyone with access to a decent printer could put on this exhibition. Inside Leith's multi-arts venue, the middle of the room is dominated by a series of boards upon which his works are pinned. Taking it all in could occupy perhaps ten minutes of someone's day, but the viewer is almost certain to depart with their head spinning.
Weird, witty and studded with wisdom, Cold War Steve's art is driven by a dark humour that leaves an indelible mark. On more than one occasion, Priti Patel is portrayed as a callous, smirking Grim Reaper, on horseback smashing the heads of suffragettes ('Priti Pitiless') or walking away from state-sanctioned atrocities such as the Peterloo Massacre ('Pritiloo'). Her fashion choice is usually Wehrmacht chic. The PM is more often than not platformed as a corpulent clown, either with his trousers down or wearing a string vest or completely naked while his former boss Cummings ushers hordes of seniors to their deaths in 'Dover & Over'. Cold War Steve delivers a very modern breed of art production which tells a longstanding story of awful politicians and their dubious hangers-on.
You, Me & Cold War Steve, Out Of The Blue Drill Hall, Edinburgh, until Saturday 2 October.