Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - After Brexit, artist Cold War Steve fights on

After Brexit, artist Cold War Steve fights on

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This handout digitally created collage created and released by British artist Cold War Steve on Friday entitled ‘The Winter of Miscreants’ shows an imaginery scene combining the images of (from left to right) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, actor Steve McFadden, chef and presenter Paul Hollywood, Number 10 special adviser Dominic Cummings and former MEP and Brexit Party leadaer Nigel Farage (centre) in a sink hole waving a Union Flag. AFP

After Brexit, artist Cold War Steve fights on

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 EU on January 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.

He thinks up ideas during the night while his wife and their three daughters are asleep, then works on them during the day.

The artist gradually refines the Photoshop collages which have brought him 225,000 Twitter followers, as well as a solid anti-Brexit reputation.

‘Misplaced and absurd’

In one montage posted on Brexit Day eve, he hijacked a photo of Brexit Party members of the European Parliament waving miniature British flags during their farewell session in the chamber.

They are at the bottom of a sinkhole in a tarmac driveway between a paunchy-looking Johnson sprawled on a bench in flip-flops and US President Donald Trump with his backside turned to the viewer.

“I just wanted them to look stupid,” he said.

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 unmistakeably British settings – typically grim ones 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 said.

“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.”

In his spoof scenarios, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrities, politicians, soap stars, TV presenters, football managers and business chiefs regularly turn up in the most unlikely places.

Therapy to success

But there is one recurring character who has become the artist’s trademark: actor Steve McFadden, playing troubled hardman Phil Mitchell in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.

For Cold War Steve, he 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 – and even salvation.

The probation officer, who went through several jobs after studying art, began to compose montages on his mobile phone in 2016.

It was something to do on the bus to and from work and helped him combat drink and depression.

Initially they were incongruous scenes placing McFadden in the Cold War – hence the artist’s name.

Then, in June 2016, a 52 per cent majority in Britain voted in favour of Brexit, and the artist changed course.

“It was devastating. I was just completely shocked,” he said.

He channelled his anger into art, finding that making Brexit-related collages was “very therapeutic”.

His creations quickly took off and garnered an online following.

‘Good for business’

Now he has books to his name, the cover of Time magazine and an exhibition in London.

He has also collaborated with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Trump has increasingly become a fixture. One recent work depicted the US president and his fellow Republicans in a reworking of Hieronymus Bosch’s hellscape “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

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.

He cannot imagine giving it all up. “They [Johnson’s administration] keep providing endless material for satirists because they’re just so inept,” he said.

“I’m in a difficult position where the worst thing . . . was for Boris Johnson to become prime minister. But then from a work point of view, it’s good for business!”


  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Koh Preus upgrades 70% complete

    Initial construction of a nearly $30 million tourism infrastructure project on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Preus Island is “about 70 per cent complete”, according to an official with the developer. Heng Thou, construction site manager of Angela Real Estate Co Ltd (ARE), told The Post that

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he