Hate graffiti and the so-called “artists” who scribble or sign on, or otherwise deface streets, walls, bridges, trains, rocks and other innocent surfaces? You’re not alone. Aside from the vandals themselves, it is unlikely anyone would consider this criminal activity anything better than a pox on society.
That said … there is another way to look at this. It is from the perspective of Banksy, the creative, controversial and world’s most famous graffiti artist. Though his identity remains unknown, Banksy’s unmistakable stenciling technique and satirical, humorous commentaries on politics and society sprayed on publicly viewed surfaces throughout the world — mostly London, New York and Israel’s West Bank wall — have raised the English legend’s profile and work beyond the underground scene to books and museums.
His 2005 book Wall and Piece showcases some of his best work along with clever, often humble commentary that might make you think twice about graffiti – at least in the style as provocative as that of Banksy.
For example, no fan of advertising, Banksy offers this perspective: “Brandalism: Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep the rock someone just threw at your head.”
About one of his favorite subject matters, the rats of NYC, Banksy notes: “I’d been painting rats for three years before someone said, ‘that’s clever it’s an anagram of art’ and I had to pretend I’d known that all along.”
The book’s last page features a stencil of a pensive young woman with a caption that encapsulates Banksy’s (arguably false) humility: “Oh my God, that’s so cute. The way you just draw on stuff and think about yourself all the time”
Truly an art book, Wall and Piece should be required reading for all aspiring graffiti artists. Optimistically, Banksy’s genuine talent and humility might encourage some of the mostly awful, self-gratifying vandals to up their game and attempt to become legit street artists.