LET US SPRAY
In the true spirit of Funct, a guru of design culture, Jamie Reid, is teamed with his maverick graffiti-art disciple BANKSY. For this collaboration, the writing is truly on the wall.
Words: Mark Robertson
make great canvases.’ A simple
philosophy for a man doing something some would judge to be a simple art: spray- painting graffiti. Banksy’s speciality is stencils. He encapsulates potent messages in tasty graphics. Some are perverse and abstract - three sharks circling round a shopping trolley filled with goldfish - others are straight to the point: a monkey wearing a sandwich board with ‘Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge’ emblazoned across it. Be sure, Banksy does not mince words.
The words ‘graffiti artist’ conjure up images of walls layered with gargantuan lettering in gaudy colours. It’s the domain of indecipherable tags daubed by prowling teenagers. The average age of a graffiti artist, according to police files, is thirteen. Banksy is no teenager but admits to being closer in spirit to your average tagger than your traditional gallery fodder. Unsurpisingly, info is scant on a man who engages in all manner of illegal ‘vandalism’, other than his estimated age (mid-20$) and hometown
‘I love fucking with everyday stuff. Walls
24 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001
Banksy takes inspiration from punk for his street art 3h
(Bristol). Only the likes of Goldie and New York’s Futura have come from behind the can to gain celebrity outwith their art, but Banksy’s extreme low profile means the work comes first.
Even on the eve of his gallery debut entitled Peace ls Tough, he has doubts about the show. He’s never grown comfortable with the whole art idea. ‘I’m still closer to Trigger Happy TV than this,’ he says. ‘l’m sceptical about galleries because they seem to attract the wrong sort of people. People who are over-analytical and don’t look like they have enough sex.’
Sure it’s an exhibition but not in the traditional sense. Funct is, after all, no traditional get together.
The simplicity of Banksy’s work - often single-colour stencils - is deceptive. For him, it’s as much about where as what. Unlike your gallery-bound artist, his interventions are in real life. ‘The back seats of buses are the best place to draw pictures,’ he says. ‘So much power of an image comes from when and where you see it.’
It is extremely fitting, then, than he should be paired off for his first ‘real’ exhibition with the one-time enfant terrible of British graphic design, Jamie Reid. During his heyday in the late 70$, Reid was the man who designed the cover of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. . . album and ‘God Save The Queen’ single on which the Queen got ‘pierced’.
Banksy is clearly impressed by his new cohort. ‘What Reid did with the Sex Pistols is fucking amazing,’ he says. ‘He was the right
Laugh 30": out one day we ' 1 1 be.- in chach
‘Galleries attract people who are over analytical and dontlookhke they have enough sex.’
artist at the right place at the right time. He iconed a whole generation; and that’s got to be the ultimate. Fuck selling paintings to Tories and drinking down the Groucho Club; you really succeed when your shit gets ripped off and put on placards at huge demonstrations and badly copied onto schoolbags!
Which brings us to something both Reid and Banksy have a special interest in: subversion. Not only does Banksy get a kick out of putting out a message, but often it’s the wrong message altogether. He explains the concept further: ‘l’m working on the concept of alternate signage. People like to do what they’re told and if you put up an official- Iooking stencil that says “This wall is designated graffiti area by order of the EEC” it’s open season. I’ve done it and it works.’
The concept is extended with his ‘this is not a photo opportunity’ signs below CCTV cameras. Then there’s the series of trap doors he painted onto footbridges around his hometown of Bristol.
In concluding our chat, I propose to Banksy that one iconic image of a very similar nature to his work was the grass- Mohicaned Winston Churchill created during the London anti-capitalism riots. To which he gets very excited, if frustrated. ‘Yes. I was there and you’re right, that was a masterpiece. Why do the right people never win the Turner Prize?’
Peace Is Tough is launched on Fri 2 Mar at the Arches, Glasgow.