Vandal by profession, Banksy's Turf War champions defacing political imagery as a form of protest. Reimagining the famous "Roaring Lion" portrait of Winston Churchill, Banksy gives the former Prime Minister a punk green mohawk. The design immortalises the real-life defacement of Churchill's statue during protests in Parliament Square in 2000.
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First shown at Banksy’s 2003 exhibition of the same name, Turf War depicts former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with a lime green mohican. Turf War took place in a warehouse on East London's Kingsland Road; suspended from the ceiling, the homonymous painting after which the exhibition - and this print - is named was flanked by the artist’s iconic work, Flying Coppers.
The Turf War screen prints were released by Pictures on Walls shortly after the exhibition was held. The now-defunct London-based printhouse issued these first prints in two editions comprising 150 signed prints and 600 unsigned prints.
The original portrait of Churchill, upon which this print was based, is known as The Roaring Lion. It was taken by Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh on the 30th of December 1941, directly following a speech Churchill had delivered to the House of Commons at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Considered one of the 20th century’s most significant political figures, Churchill is best remembered for his wartime triumphs rather than his involvment in colonial oppression. This irreverent Banksy print is all the more thought-provoking than The Roaring Lion given its pointed refusal to venerate Churchill in the way we are so used to seeing in the UK.
Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) © Banksy 2003
Throughout his career, Banksy has always been committed to poke at the pitfalls in politics. Whether critiquing British historical figureheads, as we see in Turf War, or political dissent overseas, as in Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower), Banksy has always used his art to champion those facing political oppression.
Kate Moss © Banksy 2005
Pictures On Walls was established in 2003 to distribute the work of anonymous artists. Banksy's Turf War prints were some of the first to be produced as sold by the collective. Thanks to issues surrounding ownership, however, Pictures On Walls inevitably faced disaster when big brands began using their images illegally.
Turf War © Banksy 2003
Shot by Yousuf Karsh on the 30th of December 1941, shortly after Churchill's address to the House of Commons in Ottawa, this iconic portrait became known as The Roaring Lion. The portrait is emblematic of the stoic former Prime Minister, and Banksy's appropriation of it serves to remove some of the grandeur from the portrait.
Image © Creative Commons / Dalston Banksy (Turf War) © Alan Denney 2003