Banksy Reinterpreted in WoodstockChristina Scholtz
Christina Scholtz: While his identity is still shrouded in mystery, he is regarded as the forerunner of a new genre.
'The bad artists imitate. The great artists steal' reads the engraved stone. Underneath, Pablo Picasso’s name has been scratched out with a wobbly hand, the same hand that has replaced Picasso’s name with ‘Banksy’.
The artist’s way is often daunting. The notion that art – in all its forms – is borrowed has produced both headlines and headhunts over the centuries. Drop a pin in the art-sphere on the debate of recreation vs. imitation and you are bound to hit a grenade.
Yet this freedom to craft re-works is precisely the inspiration behind the new group exhibition Emulate at 34FineArt in Woodstock’s Buchanan Square.
There can often be something properly impersonal about an art gallery, yet at 34FineArt its intimate outlay and contrasting features made sauntering within a delight. All the more so since I was about to stand face-to-face with a genuine Banksy. A print yes, but nonetheless a Banksy.
An enigmatic warrior with a stencilled wit and a strong polemical hand, this satirical British graffiti activist is a household name who inspires controversy wherever his works are found… and as a graffiti artist, that is not often in art galleries.
While his identity is still shrouded in mystery, he is regarded as the forerunner of a new genre. On display at 34FineArt are two of his works; a signed limited edition silkscreen of No Ball Games, and a late Diamond Jubilee Print.
Both are typical Banksy: A visually arresting image that light-heartedly subverts its own context. So in No Ball Games we see two happy children playing a good old-fashioned game of catch with a sign which reads… yes, ‘No Ball Games’. Diamond Jubilee Print depicts a Union Jack with ‘Er…’ emblazoned on it, a cunning twist on the Royal Crest ER of Queen Elizabeth (in Latin: Elizabeth Regina) and a reference to Banksy’s own preference for gentle anarchism.
Also being featured are a few new pieces by the acclaimed mixed media/pop artist known as Mr. Brainwash, or MBW, who is credited for his Banksy-like amendments on historical originals, a stand-out in this exhibition being Love Painter – Mandela 2012. This piece takes a photo of Nelson Mandela in his iconic raised-fist salute, and puts a paintbrush in his one hand and a paintpot in the other, thereby instantly comparing Mandela’s anti-establishment work with that of the graffiti artist.
Also well worth the trip to 34FineArt are Eyesaw’s reinterpretation of Flower Thrower by Banksy and a stencilled piece by Grafter, entitled My Dog Ate My Banksy. Whilst cultivating a ballpoint moustache does not bring you any closer to being Dali, it can be noted that an underlying plaster of wit and visual effort do these artists justice of at least trying to give recognition to the Banksy philosophy.
Other artists on exhibition are J-Boy (who replaces the barking dog in Banksy’s popular Choose your Weapon with Bart Simpson’s pet, Santa’s Little Helper) and others who are similarly inspired to reference the artwork of Banksy, including Mau-Mau, Redlock, T.WAT, Artmani, Shepard Fairey, Alec Monopoly, Takashi Murakami, Nancy Fouts and Damien Hirst.
In the closing argument on what qualifies as artistic prowess, perhaps more appreciation and less criticism should be awarded for breaching boundaries that would otherwise be left in safe monochromatic standards. If nothing else, it’s often extremely amusing and, as Banksy himself stated: “maybe all art is about just trying to live on for a bit.”
Emulate runs until 8 September 2012 at 34FineArt Gallery, Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town.
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