Banksy’s Catholic Controversy

A year since Cardinal Sin was first revealed, I revisit the piece along with a few others

Banky is a hugely influential graffiti artist, political activist and film director from Bristol, England who has always leaves a trail of controversy, outrage and ever-growing support wherever he goes. Whether you like or dislike his work, nobody can deny the impact he has had all over the world. He does nothing to hide his dislike of governments and authority figures. In fact, many of his pieces ridicule those who he feels are oppressive powers.

His work is hugely popular with celebrities, who have been known to pay considerable amounts to get their hands on his art. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spent over £1million at an auction in 2007. Christina Aguilera paid £25,000 for a copy of his piece Queen Victoria, which shows the famous monarch in a lesbian sex act. Banksy created this piece in response to Queen Victoria’s statement that women were incapable of being gay. The most expensive cope was sold for £277,250 in October 2008 at Sotheby’s in London.

For a list of the most expensive Banksy pieces click here.

Although many have tried, no-one has yet revealed his identity. In this article from July 2008, the Daily Mail revealed it had a picture of the man they believed to be the notorious Banksy. They now think a man called Robin Gunningham is the man behind the spray can. However, nothing has been confirmed and his identity is still a great source of mystery. Much of his street work is actually illegal, so in
revealing himself, he would find himself in a lot of trouble. So you can’t blame him can you? He issued this statement about his identity; “I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.”

My favourite piece of graffiti is called Naked Man and shows a suspicious man and a nearly-naked wife. What the suited-man can’t see is the totally naked man with a goatee hanging by one hand from the window ledge. His other hand? He is using it to cover his modesty. This funny mural is found on the wall of a sexual health clinic in Bristol. It’s both ironic and funny at the same time – in true Banksy style. The people of Bristol were able to vote on whether it stayed or went, and a overwhelming 97% of people voted for the piece to stay.

At this time last year, Banky revealed his sculpture Cardinal Sin which is now in its place Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. It is an ironic piece in reaction to the child abuse scandals at the hands of the Catholic Church. The gallery has placed Cardinal Sin among the gallery’s other religious artwork, obviously a deliberate move by Banksy and the gallery to gain maximum impact. The sculpture is a bust of a cardinal with the front of his face sawn off and replaced by tiles to imitate the pixellated effect that is most commonly used to conceal the identity of criminals on television. What does Banksy have to say about his infamous piece; “The statue? I guess you could call it a Christmas present. At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity — the lies, the corruption, the abuse.” It has been loaned to the gallery for an indefinite length of time.

Banksy is one of the most legendary artists on the planet. The huge costs people pay for his artwork shos that. His work has spread joy and hope to people in all walks of life. His art makes people think about the way they live their lives and teaches us to question how we are governed. He is the leader of a new generation of artists and has paved the way for so-called ‘unconventional’ art to be made mainstream.

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Tim Etchells: contemporary artist extraordinaire

After stumbling across this artist last year, I looked further into his work and loved what I found. He is a modern artist, and someone who I feel many people, especially of my generation, could enjoy. 

Tim Etchells is an incredible English artist whose art is based around statements and the city. He is a very modern artist and I’m telling you now, look up his work and you will not be disappointed. His website can be found here. Personally I love everything about cities; the constant hustle and bustle, the people, the nightlife, the noise. His work appeals to the ‘work hard play harder’ generation. Etchell’s piece Surrender Control  (2001) is a series of text message giving instructions to the receiver. He is moving away from the more traditional paint and canvas art and creating art that is modern, refreshing and inviting.

His piece called Forever (2010). A neon sign reading “You Will Live Forever” glows in red. One the website there are four different images shown, one where the sign is on a wall, and the other three it is displayed in a shop window. Two of them show people drinking, while another shows what we assume to be a drunk girl with her boyfriend. To me, this piece represents the mentality of younger people, especially after a few drinks. One guy even seems to be confronting the camera, with a beer bottle in his hand. It portrays the feeling of being invincible and the desire to live life on the edge. 

He has one piece called Rules of the Game (1999), which “started as a text work setting out the rules for an imaginary drinking game in which a detailed system of triggers and forfeits ties drinks, undressing and sex acts to live reports of news events on TV”.  For me, this has the same meaning behind it as Forever does. A sense of amorality, fueled by alcohol.

Last year, I saw his work Will Be (2010) in The Glucksman Gallery, which is adjoined to my campus. It was part of the In Other Words exhibition. This neon sign consists of two parts. Both are made up of neon letters, one reads ‘The Future Will Be Confusing’ while the other is made up of the same letters, but displayed all over the place. It’s supposed to be viewed after the first, showing that the future will be puzzling and all over the place.

For me, nothing represent a city and its nightlife like neon lights. His website says this about his repeated use of this medium; “Through simple phrases spelt out in neon, Etchells create miniature narratives, moments of confusion, awkwardness, reflection and intimacy in public and gallery settings. Encountering these signs, in the streets of a city or in the space of a white cube gallery, the viewer becomes implicated in a situation that’s not fully revealed. As often in Etchells’ work in these neons the missing parts of the picture are as important as the elements that are present. Invoking a story, or projecting an idea out-of-context into the situation of the work invites us in, but into what exactly we can’t be sure.”

The above photo is my favourite piece by Etchells: Please Come Back (2008). It is a very personal message, available for anyone to see. I think this shows how our personal thoughts, that should probably only be said face-to-face are now put all over the internet and over the phone. People use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for private messages, that should be kept private. We now somehow see using texts and the internet as an acceptable method of revealing our innermost thoughts, feelings and desires.

Please don’t get the impression that all of Etchell’s pieces are to do with drinking or young people and their misbehaviour  those are just my favourite pieces. While Forever and Rules of the Game are set nearly twenty years apart, he still manages to depict the same young and care free attitude that is so commonly associated with young people.

A Look at Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein – Pop Art Genius

Not many people would know Roy Lichtenstein’s by his name alone, (well done if you can even spell it), yet many people would know his artwork to see. He is one of the godfathers of pop art and his cartoon style of painting has made him very famous all over the world. His work is contemporary, often amusing and will be enjoyed by most people who see it. Whatever you do, don’t base your opinions on the Wikipedia picture of him, it’s creepy. Click here to see for yourselves.

Roy Lichtenstein was born in 1923 in New York and grew up there. He was an art and music lover from an early age, even though art was not taught at his school. After school he took summer classes at the Art Students League of New York and later moved to Ohio to get a Fine Arts degree. Lichtenstein became one of the most well-known pop artists, with big, colourful pieces that really draw the eye. His work is very similar to cartoon and comic book styles. He uses Ben-Day dots to help create this effect. This technique uses dots to create blocks of colour. Cyan, magenta, yellow and black are the four colours of dots most popularly used. This is known as the CMYK colour model which is associated with colour printing of newspapers and magazines. The dots are spaced in different ways depending on which colour is needed. This is why you may have seen colour dots around the edge of some newspapers.

Arguably Lichtenstein’s most famous work is ‘Drowning Girl’, painted in 1963. It was inspired by a DC Comic and shows a woman engulfed in water, with the caption “I don’t care! I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!” It is a witty piece of art; we can’t help but laugh at the woman melodramatic statement. She seems to be drowning in her own tears, swept away by her own feelings. It is an ageless stereotype that women are rash, stubborn and above all, emotional. It is one of his many painting of women, and not the only one that shows them in this stereotypical way. Brad is also mentioned in his other paintings.

My favourite of his pieces is called ‘Ohhh…Alright…’ and shows a dramatic redhead on the phone. We can’t tell whether she is upset, confused or suspicious by the news she is receiving; that’s for the viewer to decide. For me, that represents the very complicated world of a woman’s mind. I’m not one for supporting sexist stereotypes, but I truly believe women are emotional, much more so than men, and to be honest, I’d be surprised if there were people who do disagree. It can be compared with ‘Oh, Jeff…I love you too…But…’ which shows a blonde woman, also on the phone. Both are staring off the left side of the canvas, holding the phone up to their faces with both hands, and looking distressed. ‘Ohhh…Alright…’ sold for a staggering $42.6 million at a Christie’s auction in New York back in 2010.

He hasn’t only done paintings though; he has created many sculptures, the DreamWorks Records company logo and has decorated a BMW Art car in 1977. Lichtenstein has this to say about the car: “I wanted the lines I painted to be a depiction of the road showing the car where to go – the design also shows the countryside through which the car has traveled. One could call it an enumeration of everything a car experiences, only that this car reflects all of these things before actually having been on a road.”

So even if you haven’t heard of Roy Lichtenstein, look up his work, you will enjoy it once you do. You won’t regret it. For some reason, his work is considered cooler than others because of its comic book qualities. He’s a brilliant artist and a key figure in contemporary art culture.