Banksy’s artwork HMV, also known as His Master’s Voice or Rocket Dog, is a print which appropriates the iconic logo of the music and entertainment company of the same name that was created in the 1920s. The logo itself was actually inspired by Francis Barraud’s painting of a dog Nipper listening to a cylinder phonograph. Banksy’s work depicts a seated dog facing a late 19th century gramophone, the very first device for recording and replaying sound invented by Thomas Edison. The hound holding with a single paw a shoulder-mounted bazooka rocket aims casually straight down the heart of the gramophone. The composition is made in Banksy’s famous simple black and white signature but the exclusive use of black colour and white details adds to its impact and irony.
This very image was first sprayed on the streets of Banksy’s hometown Bristol. Then in 2003 the artist painted the HMV dog in the courtyard of the Cargo nightclub in London, with a colourful background made of orange and yellow undetermined forms. Located on Rivington Street, in the heart of Shoreditch which many consider the Mecca of street art in the capital, the club can also be visited by day.
Its little and cosy courtyard is an absolute gem for street art lovers as there are great pieces to be seen from internationally renowned artists like C215, Broken Fingaz collective and Ozmo. Acclaimed as a local masterpiece, Banksy's piece of art has been protected by perspex for about 15 years now and crowds still gather to see what makes the Cargo's pride.
The very first glance at this art piece conveys a stark sense of humour. But as with all works from Banksy, there is room for many interpretations. One can easily see that the artist targets the music industry and perhaps on a larger scope any mass-production company. As the dog is clearly ready to open fire on what symbolises the music company, this may represent Banksy’s desire to take down music stores like HMV and similar entities especially targeting the mass-production and marketing of mainstream culture. But he may also be commenting on the losing battle of music retailers in the digital era. On a deeper level, this art piece shows a contrast between youth and old age. The gramophone evokes the elderly times and conservatism. Banksy's intention to include an archaic item in his composition can be regarded as a critique of the old as the dog is determined to destroy it so as to leave room for the new. The armed dog, akin to a RPG character, embodies youth and thus its victory on conservatism.
Banksy's HMV dog appeared on paintings of various sizes in the early 2000s and was later released in 50cm x 35cm print format in 2003. It was released as an edition of 600 unsigned prints and only 150 signed HMV prints.