Banksy is considered perhaps one of the most provocative street artists that the world has ever come across, however, his identity remains soaked in ambiguity and many theories abound, he still remains mysteriously hidden to this day. Nevertheless through his graffiti that appear to be designed to tease and taunt the human mind, he has successfully forged a deep connection between himself and the seeing, thinking world. Spanning across different areas of expressions, from dark humor, to politics, in the early 2000s, Banksy’s silkscreen prints and stencil paintings sold heavily at auctions at Sotheby’s and Bonham’s of London.
The Balloon Girl of a London series in 2002 is one of Banksy’s most iconic works, that features a young girl with her hand extended towards a heart shaped red balloon that appears to be carried away beyond her reach by an unruly breeze. The girl’s hair is shown blown by the wind and so is her dress. She could either be reaching for the balloon or releasing it, depending upon the mind of the viewer. The girl is painted in black and white and the red heart shaped balloon is the only dash of colour in this work symbolic of hope and love. The Balloon girl is a very simple work that eloquently delivers a poignant message of hope which is what reads beside the work in fading print, “There is always hope”! Critics write that "balloons have always stood for joy and happiness, and the Balloon in this work may either be thought of innocence slipping away from her hands or hope being reached out to". The creation that serves as a reminder of hope was reproduced by Banksy in different forms and at different places.
Interestingly in 2018 at an auction, a framed copy of this work was shredded in an act of spontaneity by a mechanical device that the creator Banksy had hidden in the frame. As the print copy fell through the frame and the shredder, a new work was born that Banksy named Love is in the Bin - the first work ever to be created during a live auction as per Sotheby, thereby marking its place in the history of art.
In 2005, Banksy went to Palestine and painted on a garage wall in Jerusalem. His work titled Rage, the Flower Thrower is an excellent creation using stencil and spray paint that sends across a very powerful and pertinent message to a world that has torn itself down to shreds through conflicts and violence. Here a protester sporting a bandana that obscures his identity and a cap turned around is shown aiming with his weapon which however happens to be not a tool of destruction but rather a colourful bouquet of flowers. The flowers play a very important role by delivering the message that it is peace that one must aim for and not war or hatred. The creation urges mankind to end violence and seek peace.
In 2007, Banksy came out with a massive spray painted work on the Royal Mail building on Newman Street in London. In the same line as a CCTV Camera installation, he painted the words “One Nation Under CCTV” and towards the bottom on the right, he painted a child in a sweatshirt with a red hood, black shorts and a grey backpack depicted as painting the words. There was also a policeman and his dog in the same frame shown watching the child. The work aimed to take a dig at the culture of surveillance prevalent widely across the world. In April 2009 however this work was painted over.
In his work titled Mobile Lovers, a couple is captured in an intimate embrace however gazing into their mobile phones. The work done in Bristol in 2012 is a critique and representative of the current scenario of relationships where warmth has vanished from bonds, with more people turning towards their mobiles for companionship. All expressions of a bond between man and man are sadly superficial today. While being gripped by the charms of the technological weapon man wields in his palms, the idea of genuine connections has been totally sabotaged and gone off man's world.
Banksy’s works have more than often been wiped out or removed by authorities that found them misfit and illegal in a system where despite all the freedom of expression that exists there are still great limitations and curbs on the extent of what one can say or do. YET, his works, many of them being physically short-lived made long lasting impressions on their viewers before they perished under the tools of bureaucracy. While some of his works are very powerful social statements, that have successfully ignited thought processes in society, some others stirred and awakened the dormant human conscience. They are bold and their message strikes a resonance within each person. For Banksy, perhaps graffiti is more than a passion - perhaps it is a means for communication with the masses, delivering life messages. Banksy’s visual commentaries command the rushing human mind to stop, take note and ponder upon issues that rock man’s world. The ephemeral nature of his works is what makes the world flock towards them to capture their wisdom and the versatility of a master creator. The works may succumb before the hands of powers that be but not until they have done their job of creating a revolution, so to say. Outgrowing the canvas of a critic with his innumerable works, Banksy truly remains unconquerable and his genius unfathomable.
Note: researched article