Jack and Jill Banksy
Banksy’s screen print Jack and Jill, named after a traditional English nursery rhyme but also referred to as Police Kids, was released as a limited edition of 350 prints in 2005. The edition contains just 200 Jack and Jill unsigned prints and 150 signed prints. That same year, the artist also produced 22 limited artist’s proofs on a pink background. Unlike most of Banksy’s works, Jack and Jill was never graffitied on the street and was only released as a screen print. The work combines Banksy’s classic spray-paint and stencilling techniques with an overriding sense of ironic humour and an underlying social commentary.
Against a blocked sky blue background, two young children run gleefully towards the viewer, mostly in black and white but highlighted with a few delicate patches colour. They are laughing, carefree with summer clothes and bare limbs, and the pigtailed young girl is carrying a basket of fresh flowers. At first glance, the image appears picturesque and innocent, until the viewer sees their bulletproof vests with “POLICE” emblazoned in capital letters across their chests. With this detail, Banksy adds his characteristic ironic twist to the composition, laced with dark humour. The jarring aesthetic of children in bulletproof police jackets is at odds with the supposed freedom and innocence of childhood.
The block sky-blue background behind the children reinforces the impression that this scene is a pastiche of innocence, but they are restricted by their bulky vests, a possible metaphor for the way in which law enforcement is restricting people’s freedom. With specific reference to the eponymous 18th century English nursery rhyme, in which Jack and Jill came tumbling down the hill, Banksy’s portrayal could suggest that either children today are smothered by safety regulations, or on the other more sinister hand, are perhaps in need of even greater protection.