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Artist in Focus : Banksy

In this section for Art From Us, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at Banksy.

Art From Us & Divvya Nirula introduce you to artists and their art. Underlining significant works, discovering creative practices. And giving you a glimpse into their studio.

Early Life

In the early 1990s Banksy as he is known, started as a freehand graffiti artist in Bristol along with a few other fellow artists. It was clear from the start that Banksy was unhindered in his putting his reactions to politics and society on full view. He was inspired by other local artists who were working alongside him on the underground scene.

The artist has always been vehement about keeping his identity hidden and very little is known about his personal life – or any photographs where he is seen. But it is known that he shifted to stencilled works because it was a faster way of completing his works while staying hidden from the police. Once he worked with stencils he was able to do more work and faster – his work being noticed around Bristol and London.

The wall mural that made him famous was The Mild Mild West, (1997), it shows a teddy bear holding a Molotov cocktail in the face of riot police. The powerful poetry of the image marrying the vulnerable to the deadly, catapulted Banksy to the league of serious street artists the world over. His unique commentary and compositions are much loved for their anti-establishment messaging.

Banksy and the Street Art Movement

Currently the artist is a force to recon with. He shot to fame more so after his act of dismembering his own creation, Girl with the Balloon, at the Sotheby’s auction. After it was sold at the auction for 1 million pounds. This was not only one of his most daring stunts, but it went down in the history of the art world. It was a definitive moment for him- and perhaps it was the loudest statement that he made about the craft of the street artist. That their art was free and not intended for stuffy places or audiences. Banksy proved that he stood for the exact opposite of what the art world believed in -and
that he alone held the rights to present his work the way that he wanted. Ultimately, if the street artist loses his democratic rights then he has no right being called one.

“Vandalising” or defacing with art and epigrams, marking with tags – was an integral part of the process of the graffiti. It isn’t parlour painting, or conformist by any standard.

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better-looking place.”

― Banksy, Wall and Piece

Body of Work

Banksy has created a large body of work. Regardless of whether the reclusive artist is interested in commercial value of his work, the sale value of his works has steadily risen over the years. He has steadily covered various wall faces in the last few decades.

Owner of several hard hitting, and sometimes severely tongue in cheek – Banksy’s Valentine’s Day mural on the February of 2020 was poignant. A painting of a young girl flinging real red flowers from a slingshot – was confirmed as his work. The painting was defaced soon after but he donated
his work to the University hospital of South Hampton – as a mark of respect to all the Corona – warriors in the front line of duty.

Banksy has acquired a cult following over the years and has become a cultural artist. The term “Banksy-effect” was coined to depict the artists style.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the Artist in Focus archive.

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