Sunday, March 1, 2015

Banksy, Graffiti and Blue Paint Calliglyphs - the Naked Hanging Man

In Bristol there is a famous Banksy which is known as the Naked Hanging Man.  

The image is well known - a naked man hangs precariously from a window by one hand, whilst a man in a suit looks in the opposite direction, whilst a scantily clad woman stands behind the suited man.  The scenario appears obvious - the naked man and woman were having an affair, and the husband arrives home.  He is obviously very suspicious but hasn't caught the naked man.  

Part of the interest in the scenario is 'what happens next'.  Does the suited man look down and see the hand of the man, or does he finish and leave - possibly shutting the window and leaving the man hanging.

However, one element which is not often shown is the position of the painting which has two consequences.  The first is the sheer audacity of Banksy as it would have involved considerable scaffolding to complete.  The second makes the scenario more dangerous, if the man was to fall, it is likely he would fall to his death.

The Bristol Post posted an interesting  Blog post in 2009 about the image.  After it first went up, the  council were unsure  whether to keep it or not and so  they asked the public whether it should remain. Ninety three  percent requested it to remain.  

This is the first example that I know of where the public determined it was graffiti, and therefore should be removed, or street art and that it could stay.

Furthermore one aspect that a Councillor cited as to why it could stay was that is was 'Clearly a tourist attraction' as  indeed it is I made a point of seeing it recently on a visit to bristol.  There is often  a group of people looking at it on  from the bridge. As well as unauthorised defacement  of a property, it also breaches listed building legislation as it was put up without consent.  The Council ,however, "with Banksy, as a city, we have effectively given his work retrospective planning permission.' which is interesting in its own right, for with this decision the image moves from unauthorised graffiti to authorised street art.  (Incidentally, there is no such this as 'retrospective' planning permission in English law regarding listed buildings.)


And then the Banksy was vandalised by blue paint.  The vandalism occurred during the Banksy exhibition held in Bristol in 2009. Having granted permission the Council was horrified when the formerly illegal image on a listed building was itself vandalised by having blue paint splattered on it.

The BBC website states that a paintball gun had been used to shoot at it.

The seven splatters of paint are confusing, as the vandal was obviously aiming at the image, but had a couple of wayward shots top and to the left - presumably as ranging and targeting shots.  The window area was then hit reasonably consistently. 

It may be that the person with the gun was approaching over the bridge and was firing as walking, resulting in the wayward shots and then paused, allowing better aim.   Alternatively the shots could have been fired from a car.

This would have meant using a gun in a built up and busy area, so it may be that the person used a catapult and shot paint pellets.

This difference between graffiti and the Banksy was emphasised by Councillor Murphy who said "I am not anti Banksy, I am anti graffiti. Now that someone has chucked paint all over the Banksy it's now graffiti so I am gong to sort it out." Furthermore a Tory councillor offered to pay for the clean up.  The level of detail envisaged to clean the Banksy was near museum standard with Councillor Murphy also stating "At the moment it's a case of seeing what the paint is and then getting somebody to clean it as carefully as possible."

The paint was then cleaned, but it appears that cleaning Banksy's artwork was too difficult so only the rendered face of the building was cleaned

even to the point where the paint was cleaned up to the body, leaving a small area of blue paint remaining.

(This image also shows the paint splatters going towards the right across the body.)

The cleaning itself seems to have scoured off the surface so it was probably sensible to not have scoured off the paint on the Banksy image.

The scouring of the top layer of the surface seems to be a common way of removing graffiti in this area and other sections have been cleaned in this way

(It is hoped that the wall discolours in time.)


Is the blue paint just a random colour?  Maybe, but a taxi driver who was driving me stated that it was that colour because of football rivalries.  Banksy is reputed to be a Bristol city supporter and (probably) painted the provocative  image of Christ on the Cross wearing a Bristol City home shirt.

It may be that the blue paint on the Hanging Man image is therefore actually a targeted football reference, rather than just mindless vandalism.

Note - for a definition of calliglyphs and my long article about them here:

Below is the Bristol post article (at the web address:

Posted: June 23, 2009

One of Banksy's best-loved Bristol murals has been targeted by vandals as fans continue to arrive in their droves for his exhibition just up the road.
The Park Street image shows a naked man hanging out of a window as a suspicious husband peers out of the window into the distance as his scantily-clad wife stands behind him.
In 2006 the city council asked the public whether they wanted the mural to stay or go - 93 per cent of respondents asked for it to remain.
But the famous image, which is loved by tourists and residents alike, was splattered with blue paint sometime on Monday night or in the early hours of Tuesday.

Today Bristol City Council took a sample of the paint to establish whether it was going to damage the mural and tomorrow it is expected to be carefully cleaned.
The attack comes 10 days after the anonymous artist opened Banksy Versus Bristol Museum on the Triangle which has seen thousands of people queuing over an hour to see.
In April red paint was splattered across Banksy's Mild, Mild West art work in Stokes Croft.
The mural was painstakingly repaired by the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, which is in favour of street art. Anti-graffiti group Appropriate Media claimed responsibility.
The group have not as yet claimed responsibility for the attack at Park Street.
Councillor Gary Hopkins, of Bristol City Council, said: "I'm disappointed but unfortunately not surprised. People are built up and then there are always some people who want to drag them back down again. I think the turning point in his reputation was when we decided to keep this piece of work but maybe that destroyed his street cred."
Mr Hopkins said that Tory councillor Albert Murphy had agreed to repair the Banksy for free.
He added: "Clearly this work is a tourist attraction and now that it has been damaged we must do what we can to restore it. We must be careful to examine what paint it is and whether it is going to be easy to remove without damaging the mural underneath.
"That of course is a great concern because it would be a great pity as a lot of people from around the world come and see it and find it amusing as well as those living in the city.
"I think this attack is basically by people who think that Banksy has become part of the establishment but I think there is a difference between Banksy who produces work that people can enjoy and base taggers who want to steal public space. I would not call them artists.
"But with Banksy, as a city, we have effectively given his work retrospective planning permission. Maybe he will go back and touch it up - you never know."
Cllr Murphy said: "I am going to get a sample of the paint and get a break down of the constituents to see if it will affect the Banksy.
"I am not anti Banksy, I am anti graffiti. Now that someone has chucked paint all over the Banksy it's now graffiti so I am gong to sort it out.
"At the moment it's a case of seeing what the paint is and then getting somebody to clean it as carefully as possible."

Read more: 
Follow us: @BristolPost on Twitter | bristolpost on Facebook

No comments:

Post a Comment