After Brexit, artist Cold War Steve fights on

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  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2020

Cold War Steve’s latest digitally-created collage, The Winter Of Miscreants combines images of (from left) Johnson, McFadden, TV chef Paul Hollywood, government advisor Dominic Cummings and, in the sinkhole, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (centre) waving a Union flag. — AFP

IS the battle of Brexit all over? Not for British artist Cold War Steve who, armed with only a laptop, is continuing the fight through his satirical dystopian collages.

Ever since Britain finally left the European Union (EU) on Jan 31, the artist has been flooded with messages from pro-Brexit supporters telling him it’s over, he lost, move on.

But the 44-year-old, whose real name is Christopher Spencer, insists: “No, I’m not going to move on. I’m going to keep them under scrutiny.”

In his sights are what he sees as the populist “lies” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government.

Cold War Steve’s collages are created at the table in a small, cluttered room in his red-brick home in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham in central England. The images have brought him 225,000 Twitter followers.

In one montage (pic) posted on Brexit Day eve, he hijacked a photo of Brexit Party members of the EU Parliament waving miniature British flags during their farewell session. They are at the bottom of a sinkhole in a driveway between a paunchy-looking Johnson sprawled on a bench in flip-flops and US President Donald Trump (in red) with his back turned to the viewer.

“I just wanted them to look stupid, ” the artist says.

In the background, a mountain of garbage evokes Britain’s 1978-1979 “winter of discontent”, when rubbish went uncollected during strikes.

His imaginary scenes are often situated in grim settings that hark back to a less than glorious past.

“They’re always wanting to go back to Britain before EU membership, before cultural diversity. So I often stick them back in these so-called glory days, ” he says.

“They’ve got a hangover from the empire and an obsession with World War II. And the fallacy that Britain was standing alone and can do it again... it’s all just misplaced and absurd.”

His spoof scenarios have one recurring character who has become the artist’s trademark: actor Steve McFadden, who plays troubled hard man Phil Mitchell in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. For Cold War Steve, Phil represents an everyman figure – a disconcerted or disappointed onlooker.

Even though he despises Brexit, Cold War Steve accepts the divisive issue in Britain’s history has also brought him success.

The probation officer, who went through several jobs after studying art, began to compose montages on his mobile phone in 2016. Initially they were incongruous scenes placing McFadden in the Cold War – hence the artist’s name.

After the Brexit vote in 2016, the artist changed course, channelling his anger into art, finding that making Brexit-related collages was “very therapeutic”.

His creations quickly took off and garnered an online following. Now he has books to his name, the cover of Time magazine and an exhibition in London.

Cold War Steve’s next exhibition is an original move: in April, anyone can download 23 works for free and exhibit them wherever they see fit. – AFP

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