Graffiti, thought of by many as a disgusting and distasteful act of vandalism or gang affiliation, which a lot of the time is correct. But sometimes if you’re lucky you may just catch a glimpse of artistic mastery. I myself, besides some great pictures I find on the Internet, have never seen in person, with the exception of a few small gems, the kind of talent and artistry that I’ve seen in pictures and photographs. The world of graffiti art or tagging is so vast and divers ranging from the substance less splotching of a gang tagging up there set to political protest seen in pictures around the world. Now to become a world famous tagger would be and is a rare phenomenon indeed but there is one anomaly to that fact and his name is Banksy.
Banksy, Much More Than Just a Graffiti Artist
Banksy is undoubtedly the most famous, infamous, world renowned tagging street artist in the entire world. With Banksy’s pieces there is nothing without substance, Banksy’s social-satirical art ranges from pop culture and politics to social responsibility and ethics. Not all of Banksy’s antics are restrained to 20ft tall murals, in 2006 Banksy replaced 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s musical abomination she called a CD and replaced it with a number of substitute tracks such as “Why am I Famous?”, “What Am I For,?” and “What Have I Done?” and an alternate cover art of a picture of a topless Paris Hilton with a dogs head. It is said that supposedly none of the doctored CD’s were returned.
Although I enjoyed Banksy’s Paris stunt nothing can compare to the stark reality portrayed in another one of Banksy’s projects of placing a life sized representation of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disney Land in Anaheim, California. The representation that was meant to focus attention on the inhumane and unlawful imprisonment of terror suspects stayed in place for an hour and a half before being removed. One of Banksy’s most world renowned acts of graffiti protests would have to be the murals that he put up on the Wall of Separation in Palestine.
Protest in Graffiti -Is Banksy a Street Artist or Vandal?
But Banksy is not the only talented and surely not the only political graffiti artist out there, ranging from every style of graffiti (but mostly with stencil graffiti) and multiple topics from American imperialism and proletarianization of the world to global warming and pollution.
Monkeys, Rats and Cops
Banksy’s works are consistent , distinct in its style with a range of targeted themes & specific motifs that are often repeated underlying social or political message that criticizes homophobia & militarism to everything of our material consumption & the saturation of public with artistic corporate messages.
Banksy’s best known works and images are gun holding police drawn with Walt-Mart’s trademark , yellow smiley monkeys holding weapons & British bobbies locked in a kiss.
This loved and hated form of expression has seen it’s fare share of attempts at trying to deter it’s participants. Large cities like Los Angele’s and New York among many others have been passing more and more legislation preventing the sale of aerosol spray paint cans, broad tipped markers and etching acid and increasing punishments for graffiti writing. Some cities even have websites with misleading information about graffiti culture, some even saying it had satanic influences.
Finally , Considering what was happening in Bristol in the 80s and 90s, with the emergence of a youth culture experimenting with new takes on art and music, it is easy to see how it may have inspired Banksy greatest works to produce new graffiti art with his unique humorous images incorporating anarchist, anti capitalist, and anti war themes that satirists our modern world.
John Kalb is a muralist and an artist. He is also part of TorontoMuralists. If you’re looking for Toronto sign & mural painters, head over to TorontoMuralists.ca