As the London Olympics rapidly approach on Friday, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we started seeing new pieces from Banksy popping up. The master of the political stencil has posted new pictures on his website of London artworks executed just four days before the 2012 Olympics opens, in the East End. The artwork, one showing a javelin thrower holding an air to surface missile and the other, a pole vaulter jumping a barbed wire fence utilising a real discarded mattress, is in keeping with the political edginess that has made Banksy a household name.
The missile thrower points to the controversy caused by the U.K. Ministry of Defence installing surface-to-air missiles around London on the roofs of council owned residential tower blocks as a deterrent against would-be airplane hijackers during the Olympics. As you can imagine, the tenants are unhappy about the idea of having heavy weapons living above them. Banksy doesn’t seem too happy about it either.
Legendary UK graffiti artist Banksy’s work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road. Most recently the artist has experimented with film, achieving an Oscar nomination for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. Consistently controversial, Banksy is described by some as genius and others as a vandal. Regardless of whether he is inspiring admiration or provoking outrage, his name is one that is well-known around the world. His early career, between 1990 and 1994, was that of a traditional freehand graffiti artist in the Bristol underground scene. The stenciling technique for the ‘guerrilla art’ for which he is now better known was first seen around 2000 and is widely thought to have been inspired by Blek le Rat (Xavier Prou), one of the first Parisian graffiti artists who is also known as the ‘Father of Stencil Graffiti.’