There’s a staple phrase which journalists like to use when describing the work of a new artistic talent particularly if the work is on the street and that is to make comparisons to the Worlds most famous street artist Banksy.
I’ve often been amused with the amount of comparisons Banksy gets presumably because he is the only other street artist that said journos know about so it becomes an easy link to make. Something suddenly appears that is slightly edgy and it’s ‘the new banksy’ or an artist uses a stencil and ‘it’s the new Banksy’, how about the artist is slightly mysterious and unknown? It must be the new Banksy.
Anyway I thought I’d have a little fun with this concept and trawl the internet to find stories featuring artists who have been compared to Banksy in one way or another, you don’t have to look too far. I’ve also added a little summary which I’ve used to evaluate just how realistic the comparison to Banksy really is. Mainly when making my comparisons I’ve looked at style, Banksy is known for his single layer stencil technique and his use of environment. Mystery because not many people know who he is and that is a great talking point for the media and satire because his work can often be deeply satirical.
THE MAIN CONTENDERS
THE BLACK HAND – THE IRANIAN BANKSY
Working amongst the backdrop of the authoritarian Iranian regime, the Black Hand is an elusive street artist with some stark political messages. Using stencil as a key part of his armoury it’s unsuprising that he has been described by the Guardian as ‘Iran’s Banksy‘, working undercover, using satire to get his message across and using a similar artistic technique.
Speaking to the paper he explains how he uses his art to raise awareness of key issues in Iran such as the legal activity in the organ trade where people advertise their own kidneys for sale and womens rights. One mural depicts a woman in a hijab holding aloft a bottle of washing up liquid whilst wearing the shirt of the Iranian football team. Women of course are banned from attending football matches where men are attending, the mural has echoes with the recent story of Ghoncheh Ghavami a British-Iranian women who was recently jailed for attending a volleyball game.
The comparison to Banksy is one that seems to appeal to Black Hand. Speaking to the Guardian he describes him as an inspiration saying “You learn from Banksy. Banksy is the most important and serious street artist who has become a living graffiti encyclopedia for others.” His stencil technique also comes directly from the Banksy school “I asked myself how Banksy could be defined in Iran’s sociocultural and political atmosphere? I needed a technique to be able to do my art in a very short period of time.” says Black Hand.
More about Black Hand can also be read on the Good Morning Iran blog.
How Close to Banksy?
Well pretty close I would say, the Black Hand operates amidst the backdrop of a repressive regime. he has to use stencil because he doesn’t want to get caught and needs to operate quickly. He keeps his identity secret for fear of the authorities and he has a sharp and observant wit.
P183 – RUSSIAN BANKSY
P183 was a Russian street artist who tragically died last year at the age of just 29. In an interview with the BBC the year before they dubbed P183 as ‘Russia’s answer to Banksy‘ in 2012 when in an interview with the elusive artist they captured some of his art and his views. Needless to say the resultant video is very interesting and can be viewed here although it was an interview with the online Fatcap magazine that addressed the Banksy comparison head on. “People need to compare one person to another… So they compare. Personally I don’t care anymore. I have my own cosmos” he said.
That interview is worth a read explaining as it does some of the inspirations that shaped P183 and give an insight into the scene in Russian. Explaining his motivation to Fatcap he told them “The fact is that I have no choice, I just did what seemed important to me, that’s all. And I note that the graffiti, and if we can call what I do, is seen by people everyday, and that’s a plus.”
Part street art, part installation here was an artist who used the World around him in order to create striking and thought provoking art. Speaking to the BBC though he said that this is not his main inspiration “My work often addresses politics but for me, society is more important. All the same politics is a burning issue. I don’t like a lot of things in Russian politics, the politics of Putin.”
How close to Banksy?
Similar to Black Hand, P183 operated in a repressive regime running social commentary through art which he knew may not have been appreciated. His work was sharp, satirical and observant, this was an artist with a lot to say. His style made use of the environment around him and would often provoke comment. Similar to Banksy? Well in that regard yes I suppose he was although P183 was very much unique and a huge loss to the art world
MOBSTR – TYPEFACE BANKSY
An unlikely comparison on first sight but look a bit closer and the Shortlists question ‘Is Mobstr the new Banksy?‘ could have a little bit of momentum to it. Known for his stencilled words and phrases which have been popping up over the East End of London for years, he has gained a huge reputation for his subversive approach to ‘street art’.
Stencilling onto walls, floors, billboards, fly posters and any other canvas on which he feels his unique brand of messaging will come across, Mobstr is a bit of a darling of the underground scene. Have a look at his website here and the subversive streak becomes clear.
How close to Banksy?
Well Mobstr comes from the same school that’s for sure, subversive and underground the street is his canvas and society his audience. Strangely although he is generally known for stencilled letters rather than imagery I think that out of everyone we’ve seen Mobstr is the closest. He is deeply satirical and his observational humour is brilliant.
THE OTHER RUNNERS AND RIDERS
C215 – FRENCH BANKSY
Popping over to Malta for a holiday recently, the famous French street artist C215 thought he’d add a few of his stencils to the streets of Valletta. Needless to say it attracted the attention of the local paper ‘The Times of Malta’ who conducted an interview and titled it ‘Street Art by France’s Banksy colours Valetta‘. Speaking to the paper about his style he said “I practice my art with the utmost respect to the city I’m in. I do not destroy anything and I do not paint on walls without permission. The stone in Malta; it’s beautiful and I love it. There is no way I would just paint on it.”
Now of course C215 is well known for his stencil portraits of people and animals so that could part explain the link, he also doesn’t put himself our in the public eye too much although doesn’t necessarily shy away from it either. In London we’ve been quite fortunate to see a fair bit of C215’s work over the years. He recently hosted a solo show at the famous Stolen Space gallery and if you look hard enough you can still see some of the remnants of previous visits to the city although interestingly not unlike Banksy’s work on the street C215 has also suffered from seeing his art vandalised which is a real shame because he produces art of real beauty that really tends to blend in with it’s environment.
How close to Banksy?
Although C215 often uses stencil these are often muti-layered and quite colourful. The work often depicts people or animals and I don’t detect any satire as such. That said C215 often portrays people he has met or seen and some of his most striking work are those of homeless men he has depicted. In terms of mystery although he is not often in the public eye I don’t get the impression that he seeks to be hidden.
BAMBI – THE FEMALE BANKSY
If ever there was a street artist who seems to know about the value of publicity it is Bambi, often cited as the female Banksy on account of the fact that she is a woman, keeps her identity secret and she uses stencils. She also seems to be the darling of journos looking for a street art story with a different angle, Bambi fits the bill it would seem.
Of all the Banksy comparisons we’ve looked at, Bambi has by far the most stories in national newspapers. The Guardian earlier this year wrote an article entitled ‘How Bambi, the female Banksy became the new star of street art’ which claimed that the likes of Kanye West and Brad Pitt were ‘queueing up’ to buy her work. The Telegraph also ran a story about some art of hers which was allegedly worth £20k having been stolen from a pop up gallery in Islington.
How close to Banksy?
Well Bambi uses stencil and for the average Joe like me she remains unknown, she’s also a female so hence the ‘Female Banksy’ which the press have dubbed her. I have to admit to being suprised by the attention she receives though, it seems that there are some friendly journalists out there who like to cover her work and hence grow her reputation. In terms of the cult of Bambi it seems that it has become a bit of a masterclass in marketing and it’s even reached here, scaling the dizzy heights of Inspiring City so it must have worked.
For more images of Bambi’s work Lamono Magazine has an excellent post.
AITO – JAPANESE BANKSY
Trailed widely as the Japanese Banksy during a solo show at the Graffik Gallery, this masterful marketing was in turn dutifully picked up and run by this very blog. Yes, it’s true we too fell for the comparison and reviewed the show with the title ‘Aito the Japanese Banksy puts on his first solo show at the Graffik Gallery in London‘.
The comparisons with Banksy, were essentially that he uses stencil and his art is quite satirical so not dis-similar albeit excepting the fact that Aito is still quite young so will no doubt hone his edge over time. Prior to the show Aito painted a few things on the street which then led up to the gallery show at the Graffik. Speaking at the opening to Inspiring City he claimed that Banksy was indeed an influence and his ambition was to become the biggest street artist in Japan.
How close to Banksy?
Aito uses single layer stencil and it’s clear that he try’s to use satire in his pieces. In terms of the Banksy comparison that’s it really he needs to develop his style a bit more and to truly be compared the street needs to be his canvas. He has produced a few pieces there but time will tell to see how this artist will develop.
ROYS PEOPLE – MINIATURE BANKSY
My personal favourite out of all the Banksy comparisons is that of miniature artist Roy’s People who creates creative and imaginative scenes using little people. The resultant image is carefully crafted before being photographed and displayed in galleries in the UK and around the World. It was Islington Now who made the comparison asking the question ‘The new Banksy?’ in their headline having interviewed the artist prior to his first solo show at the Curious Duke Gallery.
Clearly there are major differences in style between the two artists but to be fair Banksy is someone who Roy, a friend of this blog, cites as an inspiration. It’s that plus the fact that Roy prefers to be known as ‘Roy’s People’ as opposed to his real name when speaking about his work which informed the headline in Islington Now.
How close to Banksy?
Roy is a great talent there’s no doubt about that but even the kindest observer couldn’t compare his work to Banksy it’s just too different. Not to worry though Roy we still think you’re cool and I’m sure we haven’t shattered that many illusions.
PEJAC- SPANISH BANKSY
It was the Metro which asked the question ‘is this the new Bansky’ about Spanish artist Pejac. Very clever with his use of placement his work is meant to compliment and support the space it is in. The resultant images are clever and imaginative, the Metro says of his style “Unlike Banksy’s murals, the Spanish artist’s creations are more understated. They are less overtly political and more minimalist and mind-bending in style: lines of a brick wall metamorphosing into the branches of a tree or the outline of a brain becoming a flock of birds.”
Casting a glance at his website Pejacs work is brought more to life, painting in the street bring surely the best place to experience it so clever is he with the use of his environment. There’s a great article on his work by Hi-Frustose which explores his use of silhouette and optical illusion even further.
How close to Banksy?
Pejac is a huge talent who is able to effortlessly work across a number of mediums. His use of environment is first class and that too can be said of Banksy. I’m not that convinced of his level of satire though, the work of Pejac doesn’t seem to me to have that much of an edge. Rather from the work I’ve seen it is more light hearted and playful.
STIK – ER… STIK BANKSY?
It was the Daily Mail which asked the question ‘Is Stik the new Banksy?‘ last year following the story that a garage door painted by the artist had been bought by a collector with the expectation that it would sell for £50,000. The door in question had been painted in Hackney in the aftermath of the London riots and depicted three iconic Stik figures against the backdrop of a single flame.
Stik is one of the most recognisable street artists in the World today, his figures have become recognisable from New York to Japan to Norway. It could be argued that he is a true break out artist in the sense that he has good recognition so perhaps the comparison to Banksy is fairly accurate in that regard. In terms of style though I don’t think they could be more different, he draws stick men in a variety of situations but which all have their own unique personalities. Stik’s work is strangely beautiful and loved by the vast majority of people who come across it.
Stik’s story is an interesting one initially drawing his stick figures whilst living homeless on the streets they became popular and well liked, looked forward to by communities who might be lucky enough to get one. We’ve covered his work a lot here on Inspiring City, his work with Thierry Noir on the Village Underground wall in Shoreditch being a particular favourite and his wall on the South Bank which is passed by thousands of visitors each day is photographers hotspot.
How close to Banksy?
Well they both do paint on the street and they are both known Worldwide but there the comparison ends. Stik’s style is user friendly and although a lot of his work (such as the London riots) piece can reflect society he doesn’t go out to shock. It’s the sort of street art which is accessible and clean and which doesn’t in the main attract controversy. He also hand paints everything with not a stencil in sight perfecting those round heads over the years to a fine art
BEN EINE – LETTER BANKSY
It’s ironic that Ben Eine should be on the list as here we have an absolute Banksy contemporary who back in the day when Banksy painted the streets of the East End would make up his screen prints. Eine was and still is a master screen printer and well known on the street art scene. In fact he currently has a number of prominent pieces in Shoreditch and the Olympic Park.
Back in 2010 it was the Evening Standard who asked ‘Is Ben Eine the new Banksy?‘ He had suddenly shot to fame on the back of Samantha Cameron, the wife of the Prime Minister, having acquired a piece of his art as a gift to the President of the United States himself Barack Obama. The canvas which simply said ‘Twenty First Century City’ is probably now hanging in the White House and certainly brought Eine a lot of attention. He told the Standard “My phone started ringing, emails started pinging, everyone asking is this for sale, is that for sale?”
It’s quite ironic that Eine, a quite notorious tagger back in the day, should now end up hanging in the White House “I got arrested about 15 times, and prosecuted and fined six or seven times” he told the Standard in the same interview. Only changing his ways when other more earthly responsibilities such as a mortgage and a relationship made him think again about activities that may or may not have led to a prison sentence. Finishing the interview in reflective mood Eine said “maybe it’s inevitable that the underground becomes the mainstream. Look at the Banksy phenomenon, or what’s happened to me. Personally, I can’t believe I’m almost 40 and still painting things on walls.”
How close to Banksy?
As a contemporary he’s closer than most and they were both knocking around the same circles so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say their motivations might have been the same. Eine however has an entirely different style, his stylised letters have been getting ever more extravagant and colourful. Also it would seem gone are the days he would paint illegally which of course Banksy still does.