Love Rat Banksy
The rat itself is executed in the artist’s signature monochromatic stencil style, shown brandishing a large paint brush in his paws. The rat has seemingly just finished painting the outline of a bright red heart on a wall, providing the only touch of colour to the print.
At first glance, it would seem that the image was intended to spread love on the streets where it was painted. However, the blood-red paint drip painting, a popular Street Art technique, implies that the heart is in fact bleeding. Banksy even promoted this work on his website, pitching it jokingly as “ideal for a cheating spouse”. In fact then, Love Rat serves to remind us of love’s potential to induce pain and suffering as well as joy and pleasure.
Rats are one of Banksy’s greatest sources of inspiration and one of the most prolific subjects in his work. An anagram of “art”, the rat, along with the monkey, is an allegorical tool used by Banksy in his criticism of the human race. His animals are frequently anthropomorphised, having been granted human characteristics and positioned in unusual or comical situations revealing human vices and flaws.
Why is Love Rat important?
The symbol of the rat is also closely associated with the Bansky himself. Hunted down by the authorities, rats, like graffiti artists, tend to appear by night under the cover of darkness.
Love Rat was the first of Banksy’s rats to make it into print form, but in his autobiographical book Wall and Piece from 2005 we are told that there are no less than 32 different representations of rats from Banksy’s early career painted in the UK and Germany. Radar Rat and Gangsta Rat are other examples of his popular Rat work.
In the book, the artist tells his readers that rats “exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilisations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”
Banksy's appreciation of rats has often been attributed to the French stencil artist Blek le Rat, otherwise known as Xavier Prou, who was the first to initiate urban art in France back in 1981. Blek le Rat's spray-painted stencils of rats first appeared in Paris, on the banks of the Seine, when Banksy was still a child. In Wall and Piece Banksy explains that "every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier."
Why we love Love Rat… ‘With this work Banksy shows a part of himself as well as the influence of figures such as Blek le Rat, making it an important part of his oeuvre. Now one of his most recognisable works, it has gone from street art to blue-chip.’ - Joe Syer
How do I buy Love Rat?
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