Showing us spray paint is mightier than the sword – Banksy is the leader of the biggest subculture movement since Punk. His surreal and tongue-in-cheek ‘graffiti art’ is daubed on public and private property walls, bridges and zoos of towns and cities throughout the world. You can spot anything from little girls cuddling up to missiles, rats spilling toxic waste, a pornographic Queen Victoria and monkeys wearing sandwich boards stating ‘ One day we’ll be in charge’.
• Art with a Message:
Even The Simpsons show hasn’t escaped a lampooning, in October 2010 the artist was invited to change the opening sequence. He gave it a dark twist, depicting the misery of exploited sweatshop workers churning out Simpsons merchandise. It’s a shrewd dig at the fact production work is outsourced from LA to cheaper 20th Century Fox studios in South Korea. Banksy always surprises with new gags and his images scream of political discontent, jabbing at the absurdity of our corporate-dominated times. His popularity reaching its peak in the noughties; Banksy’s work has actually been appearing in the city of London as far back as 1993. His art has since been spotted in cities everywhere such as Paris, Corfu, Sydney, New Orleans and Disneyland Florida.
• Obscure to Fashionable
The artist’s trademark stencil pictures are his form of protest - sarcastic and humorous pokes at the society in which he lives. Through Banksy’s art you can sense his frustration – he’s anti-war, anti- capitalism, anti-consumerism, anti- exploitation, anti-monarchy and anti-Hollywood. Yet he is one of the most loved and respected artists around the world, ironically, including tinsel town’s royalty such as Christina Aguilera, Jude Law, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to name a few.
• Mystery Painter
Bristol-born Banksy has managed to make political statements trendy and common place in the mundane, urban public sphere. He’s carving a little slice of anarchy against authority, amongst a largely politically apathetic youth and is also the “Most Wanted Artist by Police” in the UK; what he does is illegal and classed as vandalism. His identity is a closely guarded secret; there is even debate that Banksy is in fact a group of people. Whoever Banksy is, the artist’s followers have been loyal to in their pact to beat a killjoy system.
• The Andy Warhol of the Graffiti World:
Banksy’s work is something in-between traditional art and graffiti tags. Unlike highbrow art it is easily understood and accessible in an instant. His political commentary is clear and thought-provoking, cool and aesthetic. There’s beauty in the simplicity of the stencil images he uses, stencil being his preferred tool as it means he can spray quickly and run away before the police arrive. The magic of Banksy’s work is in the juxtaposition of things that seem the polar opposite and thus creates scathing irony, revealing hidden truths about the reality of life for Generation ‘Y’.
• His Most Iconic Works and what they say
Banksy’s pictures subvert social norms and manners reducing them to a parody - symbolic of the inner conflicts with the way things are run. A prime example is Banksy’s cutting opinion of the hold of corporate brands on western culture in the name of greedy profit. This theme has been explored in many images, such as Mickey Mouse and Ronald Macdonald superimposed in the war photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. Also, the image of children with their hands on their chest, looking up and swearing allegiance to a Tesco bag instead of a nation’s flag.
Banksy’s angel sitting on a kerb, his head in his arms, this modern-day binge drinker or homeless man in jeans and trainers with a bottle is given wings and a halo. It’s as if Banksy is saying ‘What about him? How is this rich society going to mend this broken person?’ Also, the famous image of the snogging policemen plastered on walls in the cities of Brighton, Bristol and London. As gay people fight for equal rights in society it’s as if Banksy is showing up the machismo of authoritative institutions and is saying relax, get unrepressed already and make love not war.
On a global scale some of Banksy’s best work is his 2005 stencil graffiti on the West Bank’s security wall dividing Israel and Palestine. One example is the picture of a ‘peace dove’ with a bullet proof jacket on, or of an officer pulling back a curtain to a paradise island. Such pictures are a criticism of ugly, inhumane treatment by governmental power. Banksy is a spokesman for the underdog, the victims and the people left behind. His frequent paintings of rats dressed in human clothes, an affectionate take on the ‘rat race’, the craziness of everyone scrambling to survive.
• Banksy’s other Protest Stunts and Paintings:
The artist has since branched off into painting on canvas, making sculptures and designing models. One of his major pieces is a 12-foot wide portrait of the House of Commons filled with monkeys. Plus he’s pulled off numerous stunts like removing 500 of Paris Hilton’s new CD from shops and replacing it with a (much better) satirical version. Then there was his trick of placing a blow-up doll dressed in the orange jumpsuit and black hood of a Guantanamo Bay prison uniform in middle of Disneyland fairground rides. Not forgetting his timely painting of the Queen as a chimpanzee during her Golden Jubilee celebrations.
• Political statements that will live on forever:
Banksy is a phantom with a spray can, making our dull, daily commute to work rich with reminders of the West’s exploitation of the third world, of reckless consumerism and the importance of opening one’s eyes. It reminds us that normal society is actually a pantomime of what is really happening – the public space is rife with CCTV cameras, security systems, rules and regulations stifling creativity. Something to learn from this is to ‘be your own Banksy’ by thinking for yourself – be unique based not on materialism, aggression or appearances but on talent, creativity, perseverance and strength of character.
• The Banksy Works:
Not starting his work thinking he’d become rich, Banksy now sells his creations for thousands, ‘Bombing Middle England’, a canvas of elderly boules players tossing bombs across a lawn, was sold for a record £102,000. The artist has also published several books such as his most famous ‘Wall and Piece’. In addition this year he released the film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary about how an amateur filmmaker tries to befriend Banksy but he turns the camera back on him. This entire media storm has exploded for one anonymous man who simply expresses he is his own person, a non-conformist – an outsider.
Article featured in Love 146′s Escape magazine, Issue #5, http://escape4you.org/ru/journal/journal-issues/escape-4-2/#/18/