LONDON – An artist's triptych of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, naked, stony-faced and surrounded by haunting images of the war in Iraq, is one of the arresting sights at a major London art exhibition.
Michael Sandle, whose "Iraq Triptych" was unveiled Wednesday at the Royal Academy of Art's annual Summer Exhibition, depicts a morose Blair and his horrified wife, Cherie, as Adam and Eve, struggling to cover their nude forms outside their Downing Street home.
Sandle's black-and-white drawing, in charcoal and chalk, includes panels showing a soldier beating hooded and naked prisoners and a pile of corpses, one with tape covering its mouth.
"This is a biblical allegory — Adam and Eve expelled from paradise — and this is Blair's legacy," Sandle said, calling the Iraq war "disgraceful."
Blair has said he will leave office on June 27, after a decade in the post.
Sandle has made several controversial works, including a 1986 piece about ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War, and a large sculpture protesting the Vietnam War. "I just do not want to spend my life doing pretty pictures," he said.
The artist completed his Blair work last month and showed it for the first time to the media on Wednesday. It goes on public display beginning Monday.
He said he used photographs of the British leader and his wife clothed, and his imagination to capture their naked forms.
"I made them up," Sandle said. "But I was rather kind to her, I think."
Sandle's piece is among 1,200 works in the Royal Academy exhibition, one of the oldest and largest art competitions and exhibitions in the world.
Submissions have come from 16 countries, including China, Japan, America, Eastern Europe and Australia, the Royal Academy said.