Sunday, 12 July 2009

Banksy versus Bristol Museum

Went to see Banksy versus Bristol Museum yesterday and had very enjoyable day despite the one and half hour queue....

It was a chance to see Banksy's work close up and make comparisons with my AA318 Open University Art of the Twentieth Century eye. On a personal basis I loved the paintings and sculpture, they were consistently witty and incisive often very cutting. It was fun to move around freely and take pictures, Banksy seems to turn copyright on its head making it his (and our) right to copy what we like, as he let's all and sundry copy him, just as he copies or rather steals from others!

None of the pictures, bar one had a plaque – that I could see – so I believe we were left to form our own opinion unmediated by the artist's or museum's thoughts and ideas.

I saw his work having two recurring themes :

ONE HeartField's Juxtaposition - a subversive, humorous often political message where, for example he contrasts two extremes the loving, caring mother with aggressive anti establishment off spring; the overweight well fed tourist in colour with their poor, under nourished rickshaw driver in black and white. He reserves much of his ironic contrasts for the riot police which he has gamboling thorough a grassy field or traveling on a rocking horse or escorting a donut(!) Where Heartfield dramatically contrasts two strong, often cliche images to create a third, Banksy is not so angry or fighting for a political cause like Heartfeild. Banksy's images are often softer not so menacing but nevertheless can carry a cutting message.

TWO Duchamp's assisted readymades: here Banksy copies Duchamp's idea of taking a known picture and adding his own twist to make a new image - as Duchamp twists Leonardo, so Banksy twists Rembrandt.

So at one level he's just copying and stealing, what makes his work special and original is the media which he has made his own – the use of stencil and Graffiti techniques. When his technique is coupled with his anti-establishment, mysterious, Scarlet Pimpernel like public character, taken together they make him a compelling twenty first century artist.

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