War and Peace With Blek Le Rat

Woodbury House, London announces the highly anticipated exhibition, War & Peace by Blek le Rat, often referred to as the ‘father of stencil graffiti’. Comprising over 50 new paintings and prints, the exhibition aims to give the viewer a personal insight into Blek’s relationship with conflict, one that is heavily shaped by his childhood experiences growing up in post-war France, where family dinners were accompanied by tales of wartime suffering, drawn from his father’s first-hand accounts of combat and captivity during the First and Second World Wars.

Braced for Conflict, Blek le Rat, 2024

Of these experiences, and the many conflicts he has witnessed since, the artist says, “Reflecting on my life, I realise that since my childhood, I have only known wars around me. I have been a passive witness…. I was lucky not to have had to fight. I had this privilege compared to other men. Despite this, wars have left their mark on me like an obsession that renews itself.”

Taken from Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of the same name, the War & Peace exhibition at Woodbury House sees Blek Le Rat explore humanity’s dichotomous state of being – of security and instability, harmony and hostility, resilience and torment, life and death – confessing, “I am both fascinated and disgusted by war”.

Stallion of Sacrifice (Red), Blek le Rat, 2024

Inspiration

Blek has drawn inspiration from centuries of conflict – from the Middle Ages to the present day – in the hope of portraying the consistent theme of futile sacrifice that underlines the human condition.

A highlight of the exhibition, the ‘Stallion of Sacrifice’ series, features a Persian warrior on horseback. The signature stencil work is based on a piece the artist saw on a visit to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and which he felt perfectly embodied the universal soldier – powerful but, ultimately, vulnerable.

For over forty years, Blek has worked in and with dynamic urban landscapes. His artistic process, which sees him navigate these changing, sometimes hostile, environments, is akin to a game of chess where every move reveals new restrictions, opportunities, and narratives.

David, Blek le Rat, 2005 (Paris)

The artist’s decades-long experience in these shifting landscapes feeds into this exploration of the unpredictability of war, and more broadly, the uncertainty of our lives.  It has also influenced the creative choices made around the scale and format of the works in ‘War & Peace’, considerations which Blek says, “…were particularly important in this exhibition, as they enhance the impact of my message.

Of the forthcoming exhibition, Joseph Bannan, Partner, and Curator of Woodbury House says, “Each piece in ‘War & Peace’ is a testament to Blek’s commitment to infusing life into every canvas, drawing viewers into a world where history converges with contemporary consciousness.” 

Summing up his hope for the exhibition – to begin a conversation with the viewer – Blek le Rat says, “I am curious to know what ‘War & Peace’ means to you.”

War & Peace by Blek le Rat runs from 19.06.2024 to 31.07.2024.
Woodbury House, 29 Sackville St, London W1S 3DX

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