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Poster artist Peter Drew has the US in his sights

Arts & Culture

After attracting national attention with his street posters about Australian identity, Adelaide artist Peter Drew is now heading to the United States with a series of new designs – including one on the fraught issue of gun control.

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Drew began his Australian poster campaign in 2015, distributing hundreds of posters around the country with the words “Real Australians say welcome” to encourage people to think about how we treat asylum seekers.

He followed it up with further series that sought to provoke conversations about national identity and traditional ownership of land.

Now Drew has shared a taste of his next endeavour with the release of a new poster featuring a broken gun and the words “AUSTRALIA … it works”.

He says he plans to travel to the United States in August to put up posters, and the gun one is just the first of about 10 planned designs.

“I have no personal affinity with the issue,” he says of gun control, “but I do believe strongly in the ability of clear communication to solve problems and I think that the design is an appeal to American pragmatism …

“At the moment there’s a lot of ideology and identity wrapped up in it, and that clouds people’s judgment. I think the example of Australia helps cut through a lot of that.”

The message he’s seeking to convey is simple: Tighter gun control laws equal fewer shooting deaths.

“You see a lot of other campaigns that focus on the emotion of children dying, etcetera … but in Australia, it feels safer here on the streets than it does in the States and I think we’re very lucky to have that and I don’t see why America can’t have that too.

“I think it [more gun control] is inevitable because weapons are only going to get more destructive and the problem will get worse so America has to face up to it one way or another eventually.”

Drew says his work has been on hiatus for around six months while he’s been building a new studio, but now that he is able to start printing posters again he decided “on a whim” to share his first poster design in the US series.

“That was the first poster I’ve printed … I usually hold back till everything’s ready, but it’s useful [to share it] because you get feedback.”

While he doesn’t want to give too much away about the other designs he’s working on, they will all contain some form of social commentary, including on what he describes as the “outrage industry” or “culture of offence-taking”.

“I think there will be things to confront both sides of politics … I’m not really playing to one side or the other.”

On his August trip, Drew will visit Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, and he plans to travel to other parts of the US next year.

He acknowledges that American feelings are running high over issues such as gun laws, but is not too concerned about the response he’s likely to encounter when he puts up his posters.

“I imagine tempers may be a bit more frayed over there but I think the job of putting up posters and communicating with people on the streets is the same everywhere.

“I’m not really trying to tell them how to run their own country, I’m just saying this is how we run our country and it works.”

Drew is already selling his gun-control poster via his website, and says he will gradually release more posters as his US trip draws closer.

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