Love Rat Banksy
Love Rat by Banksy first appeared as a stencilled urban piece in the streets of Liverpool and was then reproduced in 2004 as a limited edition of 150 signed and 600 unsigned prints. Banksy’s Love rat is made in the artist’s iconic black and white stencil style. It is shown holding a large paint brush in his hands. He has just finished painting the outline of a bright red heart on a wall, the only touch of colour of the print. At first glance, one may think that this painting was intended to spread love in the streets. But the painting made by the rat, which is actually dripping, suggests that the heart is bleeding. As Banksy jokingly advertised this piece of work on his website saying it was « ideal for a cheating spouse », Love Rat aims to remind us that love can hurt.
Rats are one of Banksy’s most prolific subjects and truly are a source of inspiration for the artist. Anagram for « art », the rat is Banksy’s most valuable artistic tool to criticise the human race. The artist often give them human characteristics and attitude and show them in quirky and comical situations so as to evoke human flaws and vices.
The figure of the rat is also close to the artist himself as rats are chased by the authorities and generally act by night. In Banksy’s 2005 autobiographical book Wall and Piece, there are 32 different representations of rats from the artist’s early career painted in United Kingdom and Germany. In this book, the artist tells the readers : « [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 influence and appreciation for rats are often attributed to French stencil artist Blek le Rat, also known as Xavier Prou, who initiated urban art in France in 1881. Blek le Rat's spray-painted stencils of rats first appeared in Paris on the banks of Seine when Banksy was still a kid. In Wall and Piece, Banksy said: "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."