One of Bristol’s most famous individuals is a name that has only relatively recently come to prominence. The name Banksy has now become synonymous with street art or graffiti and Bristol. His reputation has been exponentially enhanced by his elusive nature that has captivated both the UK and the world. His creations encompass imagery that is usually politically or culturally motivated with the sole aim of engendering an emotive response. His artwork has not only gained notoriety but also substantial value with images that have relevant provenance being worth tens of thousands of pounds or more.
In many ways, Banksy has become a focal point for satirical street art and is probably one of its most famous proponents. One of the most important features of Banksy’s street art, apart from his obvious anonymity, is the fact that his art is often created and displayed in publicly visible locations such as external walls. This, coupled with his irreverent attitude towards authority, has endeared him to a generation.
Banksy has been documented as stating that his main inspirations have included artists that have long been involved in the Bristol underground scene, one of which is an artist titled 3D, who was a graffiti artist himself and subsequently found the musical group Massive Attack. Banksy studied the style and form that 3D used and developed his own unique stencil form that has become his trademark. This stencil style was purportedly envisioned whilst hiding from the police under a refuse lorry. Although he did not use the technique of stenciling originally, it became his favoured method and one that he has now become renowned for, and as he claims himself, it is much less time consuming.
Apart from his work being displayed in public locations, Banksy has held his own exhibitions; the first of which was in Los Angeles in 2002 at a Silver Lake venue 33 1/3. The exhibition called Existencilism – an obvious reference to his favoured technique. Subsequent exhibitions, including Turf War that was based in a London warehouse, have only served to further grow his popularity. However, Banksy has not only exhibited artwork, he has also produced several films, the first of which titled Exit Through a Gift Shop. The film debuted at the Sundance Festival to critical acclaim and was nominated for best documentary at the Academy Awards, showing that he has a flair for almost any form of visual communication.
As means of expression, Banksy has also shown that he is able to use many different forms and methods to achieve the desired effect, as displayed with the Barely Legal spoof, which appeared in 2004 and which involved altered £10 notes. The currency had been reproduced with the head of Princess Diana replacing the Queens’s head and text changed to Banksy of England.
For many Banksy is an enigma, an aloof individual whose unconventional take on life appeals. Whether we will ever find out the true identity of this person is unsure, however with the notoriety he has achieved in recent years, it is certain that his message no longer goes unheard.