Rude Copper Banksy
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Rude Copper was Banksy’s first print released in 2002. A single policeman, stencilled in Banksy’s signature black and white style, gives the viewer the middle finger with startling effect – the perspective of the piece is so accomplished that his hand appears to come out of the frame.
The figure wears the custodian helmet traditionally worn by police on patrol in England and Wales, recalling the vintage allure of neighbourhood ‘bobbies on the beat’ and TV programmes such as Heartbeat that romanticised the police force. The model for Rude Copper was an artist called Jay Jay Burridge, who is rumoured to have shared an artist studio next door to Banksy.
Here the benevolent stereotype of the Bobby is turned on its head as the figure glares out at us, half in shadow, with an insolent stare, suggesting in fact that he might be an impersonator, rather than a true copper, who has adopted the uniform in a sharp satire of modern policing methods.
The inspiration for Rude Copper was the 2000 Terrorism Act, which gave police officers the power to stop and search without suspicion (this power was overruled by European Court of Human Rights in 2010). With this forceful gesture, Banksy appears to be warning the public to be wary of the authorities, at the same time alluding to the law’s apparent disdain for the disadvantaged and perhaps even the widespread corruption and racism that has been reported among the police force in recent decades.
Banksy is of course well known for his criticism of establishment figures. Similar works include Flying Coppers and Kissing Coppers as well as pieces such as Applause, CND Soldiers, Golf Sale, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day that seem to criticise the trivialisation of warfare, as well as Turf War, Queen Victoria and Monkey Queen, that mock some of the UK’s most historic rulers.
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