Bomb Middle England Banksy
Bomb Middle England is one of Banksy’s early screenprints. It was released by Pictures on Walls, the artist’s original UK print house, in 2003 as an edition of 450 unsigned prints. There are also a rare 50 signed pieces on woven paper. The work depicts an idyllic – yet explosive – game of boules. Bomb Middle England first appeared as a mural spray-painted in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol. A unique version, in spray-paint and acrylic on wooden board, was auctioned in 2007 at Sotheby’s realising £102,000, twice its presale estimate. At the time, it held the record set for an artwork by Banksy.
Bomb Middle England depicts a stereotypical English country setting. It shows three elderly ladies in their coats and hats seemingly playing boules on a strip of grass created from two horizontal planes of green, the only elements of colour in an otherwise muted print palette. The three characters and their balls are painted in black and white in Banksy’s famous stencil style. Banksy has replaced the boule balls with metal cannonballs, all with lit fuses. The women stand on the far left side whilst their balls roll towards the right side, ready to blow.
The title refers to the middle classes of England, and the work is a classic example of Banksy’s popular target – the upper echelons of English society. As always Banksy’s works can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The work seems to convey a belief that the English elite are immune to violence and the brutality of war as they throw the bombs away. Whereas another reading considers the work as parody of war – represented as a game to be played by those within distinct social circles with the power to do so.
Other interpretations view the three elderly ladies, wearing hats reminiscent of military helmets, as soldiers, attacking Middle England with the specific values and attitudes put upon them by society.