Artwork depicting Big Ben exploding like the twin towers of the World Trade Centre has sparked outrage.

The three pictures show a huge explosion bursting through London's most famous landmark, under the title 5-11.

The computer-generated images are by controversial artist James Cauty and link Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot, the September 11 2001 terror attacks and the Iraq conflict.

Mr Cauty hit the headlines in August when he created mock stamps of the Queen wearing a gas mask as a statement on the war in Iraq.

About 300 of the prints were destroyed shortly after they went on display at artrepublic in Bond Street, Brighton, when the Royal Mail said they breached copyright.

Artrepublic has agreed to show Mr Cauty's latest pictures - Blacksmoke: 5-11 Post-terrorist Modernism - which also appear as poster-sized stamps.

Family and friends of merchant banker and former Brighton College student Robert Eaton who died in the September 11 New York attacks are among those who today criticised the pictures.

Brighton mortgage adviser Gareth Glover, who helped set up the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund, said: "The images are very cheap and highly insensitive. In my opinion they should be treated with the contempt they deserve."

The UK was recently ranked tenth in the world for its vulnerability to terrorist attacks, with Parliament seen as the primary target.

MPs also criticised the work today. Brighton Kemp Town's Des Turner said: "They are certainly of dubious taste. They may be making a political statement but so was Guy Fawkes. On the other hand I am reluctant to censor material."

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper said: "I would question something that reproduces the memory of what happened on September 11 in that way. It is glib indeed to take one tragic event and superimpose it with something else."

Mr Cauty said: "Any uncomfortable reaction to this new artwork may reflect the proximity of the subject. If Blacksmoke: 5-11 PTM depicted the destruction of the government buildings in Baghdad or Kabul, would we pay attention? The war on the war on terrorism starts here.

"The symbolic choice of Big Ben - the international symbol of universal time - acknowledges the art collective's rejection of the principle of time and the destructive nature of society's dominant philosophy: proposing the first step to revealing nature must be the analysis of the system and its ultimate constituents."

The work was also defended by artrepublic owner Lawrence Alkin. He said: "Ninety per cent of people have a knee-jerk reaction to the pictures until they read about them and realise what they are about.

"They realise Mr Cauty is not anti-Government but anti-war. We have only seen one person upset by them. He was a pilot. Most people think they are great.

"They are about waking people up and trying to make them aware of things. I would not have them on display if I did not think they were in keeping with the gallery. I very much consider them to be art."