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One of Banksy’s most notorious anti-war works, CND Soldiers first appeared outside the houses of Parliament during a 2003 anti-war protest. A limited edition silkscreen print was then released by Pictures on Walls of London in 2005, in an edition of 350 signed, and 350 unsigned prints.
This Banksy print was inspired by an anti-war protest led by Brian Haw, an English peace campaigner who lived for a decade in the Westminster peace camp. At the time the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war had been brought to light, and the fact that millions of people, including soldiers, protested against the invasion was reportedly ignored.
The work depicts two soldiers painted in the artist’s black and white stencil trademark style on a monochromatic background. Whilst one soldier holds a machine gun on lookout, the other is painting a large peace symbol in red paint – the only coloured element in the image. The satirical juxtaposition of soldiers and their guns alongside the iconic peace sign is intended to make the viewer question the army’s role of of ‘keeping the peace’.
Questioning the validity of the ‘nanny state’ is a central theme in Banksy’s work. The red peace sign originally symbolised the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) of 1957 and is now widely known as an international symbol of peace. Banksy’s inclusion of it here, painted in dripping red paint, overtly evokes the bloodshed of war. Further contrasts are drawn as the soldiers, who act on behalf of the government, are now represented as activists and vandals, graffitiing the wall in protest.
CND Soldiers is yet another artwork by Banksy which questions the grounds of authority, freedom and speech and highlights the media’s trivialization of warfare. Among other works that do the same are Applause, Bomb Hugger, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day.
Have A Nice Day (Anarchist Book Fair) © Bansky 2003
The mural was painted on a wall close to the Houses of Parliament in London. Nearby, a peaceful protest was taking place, led by campaigner Brian Haw. Haw had camped in Parliament Square since 2001 to oppose the UK and US foreign policy regarding Iraq.
Although Banksy’s CND Soldiers was later removed by the authorities, Haw would stay at Parliament Square for a total of ten years.
CND Soldiers © Banksy 2005
CND Soldiers shows two armed and uniformed soldiers graffitiing a wall. One stands guard with a machine gun while the other is poised with a paintbrush and a can of paint at his feet. In contrast to the threatening authority of the soldiers, behind them is a large, almost complete, peace sign in wet red paint.
Bad Meaning Good © Banksy 2002
Banksy’s CND Soldiers promotes a message against violence and conflict – here, the soldiers are anti-war activists. In 2003, millions of people, including from the armed forces, protested against the UK’s invasion of Iraq. In Banksy’s artwork, the idea of soldiers ‘keeping the peace’ meant going against the government’s actions.
Golf Sale © Banksy 2003