By Bridget Ben-Hayon
Vandalism: deliberately mischievous or malicious destruction or damage of property. Many people would and have considered British street artist Banksy nothing less than a vandal whom refuses to show his face. However, Banksy is so much more than that. He is a painter, graffiti artist, filmmaker, and a bit of a social/political activist. Banksy keeps his identity under wraps. Whenever he makes any kind of appearance, he wears a paper bag over his head and alters his voice. The mystery and content that makes up Banksy’s art is just what makes it so interesting.
Since the 1990’s, Banksy has been dropping artwork in silence, leaving the spray painted walls to do the talking. Banksy has left his mark in the streets of Barcelona, San Francisco, Vienna and so many others. His art is simplistic, yet complex. It leaves the viewer thinking about the message behind the image.
Most of the street art done by Banksy utilizes stencil work. Stencils were not part of his original plan of action when it came to tagging buildings. One night while working on some of his art, Banksy was almost caught by some local police officers but managed to get away, utilizing the shadows behind a garbage truck as a hiding spot. While he was hiding, Banksy noticed the lettering on the garbage truck was done with stencils. This is where the stencil idea came from.
Banksy has been dropping art for quite some time now, triggering reactions from the many people who pay attention to it. Some of these reactions remain much more negative than others, but then again, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no matter how biased it is. Typically, these negative reactions primarily come from conservative viewpoints. For example, according to an article by Anthony Haden on The Daily Beast, after Banksy’s latest tour last year, many critics spoke up with only negative things to say about Banksy’s artwork. Haden points out that artists will always be criticized, no matter what kind of art they are doing, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artists that wrapped everything in fabric (yes, conservative critics still had bad things to say about this harmless art couple as well). Negative criticism did not stop Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and it has not stopped Banksy.
Banksy is a social artist and his fans adore that about him. One of his most famous pieces, titled Sweep It Under The Carpet, 2006-2007 depicts a woman dressed in a maid’s outfit, lifting what looks like a carpet. The woman is brushing something underneath the carpet in the painting. The main theory that most people had was that Banksy was making a statement about the government failing to deal with issues going on in America. However, Banksy’s explanation for the painting strays away from the population’s main claim. Banksy claims that the painting is simply portraying his maid from a motel in Los Angeles.
In 2007, Banksy did a piece titled There is always hope. In this piece, a silhouette of a young girl is painted in black and white with a bright red heart-shaped balloon floating away from her. The fact that Banksy purposely painted the balloon in red implies that the balloon is supposed to be emphasized. The balloon can be seen as a symbol for love, innocence, or hope as indicated by the title of the piece. One might look at this piece and see the girl, reaching for the balloon that is just inches from her fingertips, and remember to never stop reaching for the things you want out of life.
The art world shows so much appreciation for the art that Banksy creates. Banksy addresses all kinds of issues in his art such as war, politics, disease and many more. Many of these issues are implied, forcing the viewer to take other aspects of the art into consideration rather than just the painting itself. The title, meaning, and physical elements of the painting all have an influence on one’s interpretation. What do you think about when you view an original Banksy work of art?