Polemic/Narrative Drawing – Banksy, 2006

Graffiti artist Banksy – whose work often deals with corruption, subversion, social & political issues and current events within popular culture – expresses his artistic intent through polemic, illegal acts of graffiti which are often discovered by the viewer rather than exhibited in a usual manner.

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Banksy Altered Artwork. Original Album Artwork.

In 2006 Banksy acquired 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s debut album following its release and redistributed them across the UK, after subtly altering and collaging digitally over the original album artwork to achieve what is in my opinion, a searing criticism of the social context within which an event of this sort would thrive. The subtle subversions within the cover – the part of Banksy’s work here with which the general public would have engaged by glance – were unnoticed by many. This discreetness seems to be integral to the impact of the work, as the intended (I assume) overlooking by the public of the bare-breasted Hilton and dubiously titled album tracks – especially within the highly-commercialised, family-friendly environment of the Virgin Megastores in which the works were ‘rereleased’ –  raises many serious questions and issues regarding social values and the responsibility of aspirational media personalities. These are also raised and further elaborated upon within the album artwork booklet.

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I find it interesting that Banksy’s work manifests from the album booklet which is a document usually only seen by a fan/purchaser of an album, and this adds another dimension to the piece for me regarding artistic intent. The crude, ‘ransom-note’ style of the internal collaging is not so subtle and seems to more intensely express a distaste for the original work and perhaps highlights its own arguable crudeness. In terms of narrative through drawing practice I think that this work is interesting because it subverts a highly publicised and recognisable document which had already prompted questions regarding taste and nobility within its own context, and the primitive nature in which this is done by Banksy seems to reinforce these questions, also posing them within a wider context. The ways in which Banksy is both subtle and crude suggests to me that he thinks the original work is not too far removed from the absurdities of the doctored version.

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