BANKSY (b 1974)
“The application of paint can make a difference”
“Banksy” is the pseudonym of the street artist who has had a huge impact on popular culture. Prices for his work have increased markedly in the last year or so and it is collected by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera and Brad Pitt.
Banksy goes to great lengths to conceal his identity and speculation on this has proved inconclusive.
He is said to have been born near Bristol and to have begun his “graffiti art” there. His street art soon appeared in many locations in London, and has since cropped up throughout the world in cities such as New York, Vienna, San Francisco, Barcelona, Paris and Sydney.
He typically uses stencils to create graffiti that have an irreverent, anti-establishment humour.
Recurring themes are the environment, consumerism, the Vietnam and Iraq wars, surveillance and policing, and urban living. His approach is ironic, satirical and subversive.
For example, images include, Mona Lisa with a rocket launcher; two police officers kissing passionately; a monkey wearing the queen’s tiara; a rioter throwing a bunch of flowers rather than a petrol bomb; armed soldiers painting a CND sign. Signs and notices proclaim “Official Graffiti Area”, “Designated Riot Area” or, at well known beauty spots, “This is Not a Photo Opportunity”.
He has also produced works which he has inserted in the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Gallery, British Museum and the Louvre, on the grounds that waiting for his work to be selected for such institutions is boring.
Other stunts include adding hundreds of spoof covers to the newly released Paris Hilton debut CD; painting huge graffiti on the Palestinian side of the Israeli West Bank Barrier; inserting a life size figure of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner on a Disneyland ride, and adding the sign “We are bored of fish” inside the penguin enclosure at London Zoo.
Banksy’s work is not restricted to the street. He has produced limited edition prints based on some of his most striking images and also paintings based on works by artists such as Monet (where the garden is disfigured by abandoned shopping trolleys and garbage) or Edward Hopper (whose “Nighthawks” is subverted by the addition of an English football hooligan).
Banksy has published a number of books showing his work and accompanied by his often witty writing.
“All artists are prepared to suffer for their work, but why are so few prepared to learn to draw?”
“A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to”