Another year, another Banksy, at last! The port of Dover, a major port with the shortest distance between UK and the European mainland, found itself the proud home of the latest outdoor street art masterpiece by Banksy. A huge version of the EU flag with a worker chipping away at one of the 12 stars greets inland arrivals coming into the port on the main road from London.
When it reveals itself to you from about ¾ mile away on the hill descending into Dover, its audacious scale and visibility is quite breath taking. This isn’t tucked away on a back street facing somewhere anonymous, you simply can’t miss it. By the end of this year this could be one of the most viewed single works of art in the country, perhaps even the World.
Close up the attention to detail is awesome. Check the drop shadows on the chipped off pieces of the stars, look also at the cracks, they are stunningly painted and close up you can see each crack represented by two contrasting lines very precisely drawn alongside each other.
The subject of the work is clear, it’s about Britain leaving the EU but is the piece perhaps a bit ambiguous? Is the worker “Leave” supporter taking great delight in symbolically destroying the EU or are his actions showing us how devastating the course the UK is seemingly irretrievably embarked upon is, in other words pro-Remain. Context is everything with Banksy and his views are pretty clear if you think back to art he put up in Calais in 2015, Steve Jobs as an immigrant; a child gazing through a telescope across the channel to England but a vulture (death) perches on the telescope; and his “We’re not all in the same boat”, a raft borrowed from “The Raft Of The Medusa” by Théodore Géricault. The issue was the refugee crisis but the clear message was more compassion was needed meaning open boarders, Banksy is pretty clearly a Remainer.
Timing is a bit of an issue since the decisive vote which lead to our latest Prime Minister changing her mind completely from “remain” to “a red, white and blue Brexit” was 10 months ago. The issue is central to our current general election process but only to the extent that the PM seeks a mandate to do as much damage as she can without subsequent recourse to the population. Banksy’s mural seems to be more timely if considered in the context of the French presidential election which reaches its climax this weekend as the eminently sensible French electorate chose a centrist pro EU president rather than a far right candidate hell bent on wreaking further disunity and harm to the EU.
The placement of this piece is magical. Dover is defined in its present and its history by this country’s relationship with the continent, whether that means trade, migration, vacation or war. Almost no one passes through Dover without registering that this is a point of departure, arrival and communication and it is all about the short cross sea link to France. It is hard to imagine a place in the UK where a Brexit piece could resonate more with its surroundings.
This post is an abridged version of a post I wrote for Graffoto blog, head over there for more views on the way Banksy may have created this masterpiece and similarities to older Banksy street art.