See the Writing on the Wall

When one thinks about great artwork, they would immediately picture a scene depicting a person, a scene or an oil painting on a canvas. However, art is freedom of expression. It is not something that can be restricted to a specific medium or something that is passive. Art can be bold. It can be aggressive. It can create outrage. The form of art which is fundamentally rooted in offensive rebellion is the art of the graffiti. One such artist who truly defines greatness in this medium is Banksy.

Banksy is a pseudonymous British artist who is the vanguard of the counterculture art movement. His works are rife with dark and ironic humour. His work is primarily graffiti although he has worked on creating satirical sculptures. He has also worked in other forms of media such as in films and is a very ardent political activist. He is shrouded in mystery and his identity would be worth killing for. Banksy is said to have been born in 1974 in Bristol. He was apprenticed as a butcher but had moved onto freehand graffiti during the great Bristol aerosol boom in the 1980s when there was a massive upsurge in the vandalism culture.


Banksy uses a distinctive style of stencilling which allows him to make sharp looking artwork instead of the hazy freehand preferred by other artists. His serious themes deal with outrage against commercialism and oppression by the government. He feels that these two forces operating in this world are the sole cause of inhumaneness and misery. His works have a heavy dose of irony and dark humor and they hit hard with highly suggestive or in-the-face imagery. One such work is depicted in this picture:

The work depicts the Napalm girl from Vietnam whose hands are held by Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. This work depicts the irony of the American Government. The very country which gave rise to ubiquitous brands, namely Disney and McDonalds, was also responsible for the wide scale destruction and misery caused by the Vietnam War. It is a contrast of how Americans see themselves and how the world sees America. Such works reflect his contempt for politics.


He is also famous for a few quirky works such as this depiction of Charlie Brown smoking a cigarette with gasoline in his hand on the wall of a building damaged by fire. He plays around with the idea that the lovable Peanuts character was somehow responsible for the blaze due to his blockheadedness. This work has been affectionately dubbed by the people as ‘Charlie Brown Firestarter’. However, this interesting piece has been stolen, reflecting the value and popularity of a Banksy work.


Banksy in the Simpsons

Banksy is extremely famous and has been the forerunner for public interest in street art. He is said to have developed a storyboard for the introduction an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ which he appears to have tagged. He had made a film ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’ in 2010 which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category and was featured in the Sundance Film festival in the same year. He has widespread patronage among art lovers. In fact, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spent millions of dollars on his work, showing his increasing popularity as a commercial artist. His work ‘Keep it Spotless’ shown below was sold for 1.87 million dollars, proving that even a work considered vandalism is a masterpiece.


Keep it spotless

Banksy often feels that his commercial success is a considered a failure in his duty as a graffiti artist. He had stopped selling artwork last year and had instead focused himself on street art that made him who he is. His works are often vandalized by other graffiti artists who disapprove heavily of his stencil style artwork instead of the ‘purist’ freehand spraying employed by them. Irrespective of whether you love him or hate him, he has proven himself to be the most influential street artist of all time.

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Rishi Rajasekaran

Intern at The Fishbowl Network
Hi, I'm Rishi, a Computer Science and Engineering student of NIT Trichy. When I'm not mugging in the last minute for my exams, I take part in quizzes and other literary events. Everything about the universe fascinates me, except for Justin Bieber songs. Feel free to praise or demean my work in the comments section and on Facebook.
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