Banksy Flying Copper made its first appearance on canvas and as a silkscreen print in 2003-2004. There are 150 silkscreen prints available as far as we know for now. This work of Banksy’s depicts a police officer who (judging by his gear and the way he stands) we can safely say is encountering a riot. Banksy makes that nuance quite clear. The attire and weapon of the police officer also suggests that Banksy wishes to represent the kind of police forces that dealt with protests and uprisings such as in the Arab Spring or the civil war in Ukraine.
In place of where you would expect this police officer’s face to appear, there is a bright yellow smiley, which smiles at us from within the helmet, in stark contrast to the colour of the officer’s uniform and the fear inducing aura, which surrounds the image of a riot officer. Banksy takes the juxtaposition even further by placing behind the riot officer, a pair of wings, which are disproportionately smaller to the police officer who they seem to serve.
The first and most obvious piece of conceptual significance in this work is the intentionally absurd and ironic synthesis of opposing visual and thematic elements. Riot police officers are the last thing anyone would think of when they look at a yellow smiley face or an adorable pair of almost cupid like wings, such as the ones that are donned by the officer in Flying Copper. Banksy gives his flying cop a face which in no way matches the image and persona of a riot officer. This very contrast of elements (along with the small pair of wings) creates an artistic tension within the piece.
Banksy often uses both the form and the content, as tools for creating juxtaposition and irony in his works. The smiley face and wings aren’t just in contrast with the riot officer because of what they are, but also because of their visual impression. The riot officer is in contrast with the colour and style of the wings and smiley face. Going beyond just the genius of juxtaposition as an artistic device, Flying Copper can be understood essentially as a work of revolutionary satire.
It is easy to miss this at first, but if we look closely enough, we realise that the very specific shade of light blue that Banksy uses for the background is uncannily close in resemblance to the official colour of the United Nations. This realisation gives the piece a very meaningful, although a dark dimension. Angels are generally associated with peace and seen as guardians or protectors as well. Banksy might well be critiquing the role of the UN in efforts to resolve conflict and showing us that (very much like the smiley is a mask) the United Nations is just an institutional arm of the military-industrial complex, which it is supposed to be keeping in check.
The former interpretation complements almost perfectly, the fact that militarism, war and the loss of human life has been in somewhat inverse proportion to the growth of the United Nations. Banksy could be trying to say that these small and absurd wings can hardly pick up this heavy officer, let alone protect us from the destruction and chaos of war and violence.
Specialists in Banksy prints and urban art, Contemporary Art Trader can help you find your very own, authentic Flying Copper, signed or unsigned. For any queries you may have, contact us today.