Only since the 1980s has the idea of graffiti coincided with true and stylistic art forms. While still illegal on public property, street art has truly evolved to become one of the most recognized mediums of art around the world. However, graffiti, in my opinion, really began to mean something important in the 1990s when a new wave of street artists emerged, searching for social change and attention. This new age of art caught the attention of individuals across the globe as the topics and pictures displayed soon began to tell a story often surrounding mainstream media and satirical criticisms of the world today. While there were many great artists who have revolutionized street art, there is one in particular who has demonstrated this new age and these new styles almost expertly. This individual goes by the pseudonym, Banksy, in order to stay anonymous and evade authorities. Originally from the United Kingdom, Banksy’s artwork tells tales of criticism towards the media, both xenophobia and ethnocentrism and other ethical issues across the globe. These three themes are actively present in his artwork, mainly displayed on his website, banksy.co.uk. When exploring his opinionated observations surrounding media, one may conclude that his portrayal attempts to assign responsibility to damaging media platforms; his motto seems to be about exposing the wrongdoing by shaming the wrongdoers.
While this may seem pessimistic, he understands how media consumers respond to controversial art; he knows that change may often occur once an issue is acknowledged and ignorance is removed from the equation.The first images above, demonstrate the media’s victimization of individuals while the last image demonstrates the media’s control over information. However direct these art pieces are, often they still require a level of reading between the lines for each image. An individual analyzing the image to the left, may conclude that the image is a representation of the media’s ability to alter information through censorship, double speak or elimination of crucial details in order to control the perception of an event based on that news outlet’s underlying biases. However conclusive the last observation may be, there may also be many different ways to perceive the images above.
In addition to criticisms of the media, other critical art pieces by Banksy may include topics surrounding xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
The above images, the Syrian refugee boat and the unwelcoming birds, assess the many unethical ways individuals treat immigrants or even those from different areas who look differently. Specifically with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, many countries closed their borders, explicitly or implicitly supporting xenophobic views. The image to the right is also a critique of the way the USA has handled their illegal immigrant crisis. While illegally immigrating to countries is damaging towards other individuals attempting to gain citizenship properly, individuals in the USA have marginalized groups, primarily Hispanic or Latino communities through their dangerous stereotyping. The image demonstrates issues that may arise from these ethnocentric or xenophobic views as authority figures who have these notions may abuse their power to exploit said marginalized groups. With this type of awareness, Banksy is attempting, and I can only hope, to end these dangerous concepts by accentuating how ridiculous they really are.
Some other ethical dilemmas he brings attention to include these following pictures. These images only touch upon some crucial circumstances being faced across the globe. The first image may paint a picture of destroyed innocence and childhood and the harsh reality many children face as premature soldiers. The second image may illustrate the loss of identity for many indigenous communities as they were often assimilated with society, damaging their history. The last image, may tell the story of many individuals from countries that monitor their citizen’s every move. This invasion of privacy continues to grow today in hopes to eliminate dangerous situations while also instilling fear in law abiding citizens. Banksy showcases these difficult and controversial themes as they have made an impact on his life. He continues to change the art world today with these extravagant images that grow in complexity and variation.
Bansky’s ever growing variation of artwork may be demonstrated through the following street art mediums he partakes in; sculpturing, graffiti (with spray paint and stencils) and stickers. Many of Banksy’s sculptures reside in his dramatic art shows he puts on to attract attention. One of these sculptures includes the Syrian refugee boat, as seen previously, that also includes interactive components, allowing onlookers to control the direction the boats go in. Another sculpture includes Banksy’s iconic “Death of the Phone Booth,” showcasing the rise of cellular devices. This sculpture reminds older generations of crucial parts of their lives that are no longer compatible with today’s rise in technology. Banksy also uses this medium to illustrate society’s apathetic attitude towards the environment in the image on the left of a dolphin ride for kids, damaged by trash and garbage. Banksy really alludes to the extreme amount of anthropocentric views prominent in individuals across the globe; more organizations and countries are resorting to damaging resources rather than using sustainable and healthy resources. Banksy is truly able to use this medium to demonstrate the many themes he illustrates with his art.
Banksy’s use of traditional spray paint, stencils and stickers is also very prominent in his artwork as is demonstrated in his street art. For many street artists hoping to convey messages with their artwork, the use of stencils is extremely crucial. Each image and perfected line is created by the use of stencils, and details are created by previously produced stickers as seen in the below video.
This video provides examples of both stenciling and stickers used by graffiti artists, such as Banksy. The extreme amount of detail needed to create such images can only be accomplished through these different types of street art mediums.
However often Banksy uses these mediums, his work is distinguishable in different ways as his style is quite recognizable. Other than his infamous signature, Banksy’s art often uses silhouettes, detail highlighting shadows and the natural environment to compliment his work. As seen by the image on the right, silhouettes may exhibit just the right amount of context and detail to still complete the art piece; artists are still able to convey the original image. In addition to silhouettes, much of Banksy’s work creates the details of the images through shadows. This style may be recognized in the below photo of this type of artwork.We see, in this example, that the details of each individual is highlighted by the shadows in the facial features; we see ears because the shadow behind the ear and of the ear’s creases is shaded. This is a very distinguishable style of Banksy’s seen in many other art pieces of his.
One last style Banksy has demonstrated is the use of his natural environment. This image displays his ability to use present objects to accentuate his art. He uses the growing shrubs to complete his image without disturbing the natural environment.
Banksy’s style demonstrates his expertise and the distinguishing features of art which make his art iconic. Banksy’s themes, style and mediums have been quite interesting to research however, how insightful could I be if I did not attempt to recreate this revolutionary art form?
After producing an idea relevant to my generation’s way of life, I began creating my own “Banksy” piece.
I began by drawing out my own stencil, first in pencil and then with back sharpie, deciding what pieces I would turn into a stencil. After this portion, I then cut out my stencil with a fine cutting knife. This process, was the most time consuming as I needed to ensure the design was exactly how I pictured. The next step required me to purchase spray paint and painting gear in order to complete this experiment. After spending what seemed like hours laying down newspapers, I sprayed my first painting. Unfortunately for me, I was not a naturally born artist and the piece did not turn out how I had wished. As I later found out, tape only ruins the strength of the paper, and the stencil is meant to come off almost immediately after the spraying is completed. With this information I then decided to start all over again with a different approach, this approach being the recognition that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I began to attempt my second try in layers, first completing the background colours and then adding on top. This allowed me to even accomplish different affects from the spray paint that I wasn’t expecting. By changing my personal style surrounding art, I was able to truly recreate something to be proud of. I replicated a distinct theme of criticism towards social trends using a style of art typically utilized by Banksy while using traditional graffiti spray paint and stencils. This new found respect for the intensity and difficulty required to accomplish such a task, is one I will remember forever. I hope my piece would make Banksy proud of the social and political impact he has made on individuals such as myself by recognizing how truly inspirational his artistry is.
Banksy. “Banksy.” Banksy, banksy.co.uk/.
Banksy, director. Exit through the Gift Shop. Paramount Pictures, 2010.