Banksy does street art and graffiti, and even though he is now a famous artist, he remains loyal to his roots, and therefore his identity is still a question of speculation. You find a good overview of his activity and what we know about him on Wikipedia. On his own website, he says about himself: “I am unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being ‘good at drawing’ doesn’t sound like Banksy to me.”
Whatever his identity, he is a brilliant artist, and his art is always a political statement. His works challenge social boundaries that we take for granted, and he wants to subvert the separation between life and art. (“Bus stops are the best places to exhibit art,” “art galleries are the trophy shrines for millionaires.”) He is consequent in this approach, and he considers Government authority to be preposterous and fake. Some consider his actions as vandalism, and frequently he is in violation of public ordinances, because he spray paints public spaces. As a voice from the underground, he is subversive and anarchist, and he forces us to rethink our social divisions, and to confront our own alienation.
See some pictures of his art below in the gallery. He also published a few books, and here are some quotes:
From “Wall and Piece”
- We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves.
- I used to tell everyone I met to be an artist….. I don’t do that any more.
- Sometimes I feel so sick at the state of the world I can’t even finish my second apple pie.
- People who should be shot: Fascist thugs, religious fundamentalists, people who write lists telling you who should be shot.
- We don’t need any more heroes; we just need someone to take out the recycling.
- Think from outside the box, collapse the box and take a fucking knife to it.
- Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.
- If you want someone to be ignored, then build a life-size bronze statue of them and stick it in the middle of town.
- Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions, and buy records by the billions. ‘We the people’ affect the making and quality of most of our culture, but not our art.
- The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires…
- I’d been painting rats for three years before someone said “that’s a clever anagram of art” and I had to pretend I’d known that all along.
- People who enjoy waving flags don’t deserve to have one.
- Become good at cheating and you never need to become good at anything else.
- ‘I got home at last and crawled into bed next to my girlfriend. I told her I’d had an epiphany that night [about using stencils] and she told me to stop taking that drug ‘cos it’s bad for your heart.’
- I sucked a lot of breasts to get where I am today.
- T.V. has made going to the theatre seem pointless, photography has pretty much killed painting but graffiti has remained gloriously unspoilt by progress.
- People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that’s only if it’s done properly.
- People who get up early in the morning cause war, death and famine.
- Conversations don’t get any better as you get older.
- “There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover” – Metropolitan Police Spokesperson
- “Nobody ever listened to me until they didn’t know who I was”
- “The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages.
- As a precaution to ever committing major acts of evil it is our solemn duty never to do what we’re told, this is the only way we can be sure”
- “You can win the rat race but you’re still a rat.
- The human race is an unfair and stupid competition. A lot of runners don’t even get decent sneakers or clean drinking water.
- Some runners are born with a massive head start, every possible help along the way and still the referees seem to be on their side.
- It’s not surprising a lot of people have given up competing altogether and gone to sit in the grandstand, eat junk food and shout abuse.
- What we need in this race is a lot more streakers.”
From other sources
- Writing graffiti is about the most honest way you can be an artist. It takes no money to do it, you don’t need an education to understand it and there’s no admission fee. (Tristan Manco. Stencil Graffiti)
- “People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” Taken from ‘Brandalism’ in the book ‘Cut It Out’
- A lot of people think that scuttling around stencilling images onto buildings in the middle of the night is the action of a sad, frustrated individual who can’t get attention or recognition any other way. They might be right, but I’ve done gallery shows and, if you’ve been hitting on people with all sorts of images in all sorts of places, they’re a real step backwards, painting the streets means becoming an actual part of the city. It’s not a spectator sport. Tristan Manco. Stencil Graffiti
- The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists.. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little. taken from ADbusters magazine.
- Some people want to make the world a better place. I just wanna make the world a better-looking place. If you don’t like it, you can paint over it!
- “Bus stops are far more interesting and useful places to have art than in museums. Graffiti has more chance of meaning something or changing stuff than anything indoors. Graffiti has been used to start revolutions, stop wars, and generally is the voice of people who aren’t listened to. Graffiti is one of those few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make somebody smile while they’re having a piss.” Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall.
- Banksy’s own site
- Exit through the Gift shop – a documentary about Banksy and Mr. Brainwash. Very informative.