Artist and regular Aestheticons’ contributor, Dominic Baker, looks at the work of Banksy who challenges, amuses and views the “purpose” of Art thus: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
Where do I begin to describe one of the most influential artists of our generation? Unless you have no discernible interest in popular culture, you will certainly have found yourself looking at one of Banksy’ many sensationalist works.
His mission is to shock and awe. To make you consider your surroundings, open your eyes to the many ways that capitalism, war, censorship and systems of control oppress you. To turn taste on its head. Banksy is massively relevant, shocking and uses a brand new format that took traditional graffiti art by storm.
The cardboard stencil known as the ‘throw up’. It is quick to spray, accurate and detailed. His modus allows him to hit several spots in one night and do small eye catching pieces in very public places that are unavailable to others. Thus he avoids capture and has remained largely anonymous to this day.
Originating from Bristol in the early 1990’s, most early work was freehand. Known for its massive graff scene and underground music with a subversive anti-culture bubbling just under the surface. Banksy was heavily influenced by the graffiti artist and rapper, Robert “3D” del Naja and Grant Marshall who went on to form Massive Attack with Tricky and others.
Banksy met the photographer Steve Lazarides who sold some of his works eventually becoming his agent. He travelled all over the UK, but especially London, to deliver his politically charged messages.
In the early 2000’s he started to do exhibitions: 2002 – Existencilism in Los Angeles, 2003 – Turf Wars in London – where he gave a very rare interview. In 2005, he went to Palestine and did some iconic work on the infamous Israeli West Bank Wall.
2006 saw an exhibition called Barely Legal which featured a famously painted with Indian motifs and very much alive elephant thereby courting controversy with animal rights activists.
2009 saw Banksy’s biggest exhibition to date, at the Bristol Museum featuring over 100 works, which proved hugely popular. Banksy and Lazarides also parted company in 2009.
In 2010, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop‘ was aired at Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival in Utah and went on to be nominated for an Oscar.
2015 saw the opening of ‘Dismaland‘ a bemusement park – a none too subtle dig at Disneyland – in collaboration with other iconic artists including Damien Hurst and Jenny Holzer. Everything was supposed to be disappointing, dull, darkly humorous with digs at capitalism and the pro-environmental lobby, even the staff were told to be sullen and uncooperative!
This Behemoth of a social and cultural icon who so cleverly reflects on social ethics, will, I believe, be studied by art student in years to come. He will be as revered and revolutionary in 100 years time as Salvador Dali, Matisse & Picasso were to their era.
Banksy is still out there challenging the status quo, still ‘flipping the bird’ to the authorities and pushing the malleable boundaries in taste. Much of his artwork is now sold for millions and not covered over, which some have said has killed the underground scene.
For now, we pay our respects to the world’s most successful living and still anonymous artist, Banksy.