Love Rat is one of the most iconic of Banksy’s works and a piece that carries a kind of organic gravitas making a connection with people on a basic level (like his other work, There is Always Hope) beyond the confines of art criticism and the intellectual debates surrounding art. It first made a public incarnation as graffiti work on a street in Liverpool, England. The prints of Love Rat came up for sale in 2004 for the first time.
The work shows us a rat handling a brush of disproportionate size after apparently having just painted a red heart on the wall. Although rats have become something of a motif in Banksy’s work and seem to fascinate him, the rat in Love Rat (in comparison with Gansta Rat) has a very different personality, visual representation and facial quality.
As with all of Banksy’s work, the minimalist arrangement of unlikely visual elements together set the premise for a variety of interpretation. One could even safely say that Banksy’s works sometimes act like Rorschach inkblots, in the sense that they take on the function of revealing the viewer to the viewer’s own self. You are what you see, the meaning that you find in the work.
In Love Rat, we can clearly see that the rodent isn’t like the one in Gangsta Rat. Here the rat has a meek and almost endearing quality, a sort of innocence even that wishes to remind us of something that we as humans may have forgotten: the heart as a spiritual and symbolic organ for love. That is perhaps why the paintbrush in the hands of the rat is of about human size. In addition, the expressions on the face of the rat resemble those of a child who has written something on a wall of the house to get the attention of a busy and inattentive parent. Moreover, we all know that sometimes children remind us of things which we adults have lost sight of during the course of growing up.
This meaning can be interpreted and appreciated even more if you put yourself in the physical context of the artwork itself. Walking by a busy urban landscape with a swarm of strangers who don’t say hello and are preoccupied with business, tasks, money, sex, alcohol, etc., and all the condiments of the modern urban condition. Then a rat, an animal seen by you as vermin, reminds you of the essence of being human.
This is Banksy at his best.
There is another completely different perspective to Love Rat though which is perhaps just as amazing as the above stated interpretation. Keeping in mind what Banksy has stated regarding his perception of rats (look up the Gangsta Rat description on our website), we can also look at Love Rat as work that is searching for a passerby who can identify with the rat. The paint on the heart painted by the rat is dripping as if it were the heart that was bleeding. Maybe Banksy wants to search for someone who feels the same emotions as the rat.
Specialists in Banksy prints and urban art, Contemporary Art Trader can help you find your very own, authentic Love Rat, signed or unsigned. For any queries you may have, contact us today.