Bomb Hugger (Bomb Love) Banksy
Bomb Hugger, also known as Bomb Love or Bomb Girl, is an early Banksy screenprint. The image of a girl hugging a deadly weapon has become iconic and explores the dichotomy of love and war – a topic the artist is largely concerned with. A similar image first appeared as a mural in East London in 2003 and another appeared in Brighton the same year.
Bomb Hugger features in Banksy’s autobiographical book Wall and Piece published in 2005. At the time 150 signed screenprints were released as a limited edition along with 600 unsigned prints. Originally the screenprint came in one single colourway – fluorescent pink. Over the years Banksy reproduced the image in many different formats, on canvas or on placards on the occasion of anti-war protests.
Banksy’s Bomb Hugger shows a young girl with a ponytail hugging a bomb as if it were a cuddly toy. The bomb, akin to those dropped from military aircraft, is cumbersome held in the child’s small arms. The girl herself is stencilled in black and white on a blocked bubblegum pink background, accentuating her diminutive figure and evoking childhood posture, fragility and innocence. The treatment of the child’s figure is reminiscent of other young characters created by Banksy like the famous Girl with Balloon painted in London in 2002 or the Ice Cream Bomb Girl painted on Brighton Beach in 2004.
Bomb Hugger highlights the contrast of two seemingly opposed subjects – the young girl representing innocence and purity, and the bomb symbolising war and violence. The image provokes anxiety in the viewer, depicting a child holding a deadly weapon, which might explode any minute.
Banksy is known for his sarcastic criticism of the military, and his works generally offer several messages, but this juxtaposition of subjects is a central motif in Banksy’s work, often used to contrast and reject the violence of war, as in Have a Nice Day or Flying Copper - in which he portrays soldiers with yellow smiley faces, or Happy Choppers, a cartoon-like work showing military helicopters festooned in girly pink bows.
Bomb Hugger highlights modern society’s unwitting affection for warfare, with bombs that are manufactured in the UK and sold by the millions like toys. Warfare is represented like an innocent game without consequence – equated to a harmless toy. Banksy’s message is clear - the girl's expression is not of fear, she is smiling. Through this work Banksy is addressing his public, hoping to prompt a reaction that challenges those politicians who portray warfare in a positive light, attempting to justify its worthiness as a necessary means of peace.
One may also interpret Bomb Hugger as a signifier of the power of love, a message that love can overwhelm hatred and thus prevail over war, if only the explosive can be disarmed by the little girl's loving embrace.