Following an extraordinary success with Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” at Sotheby’s London in 2018, Phillips (Hong Kong) promptly collaborated with the artist in a selling exhibition of his prints that continues to highlight his oeuvre. In particular, two of the prints, “Girl with Balloon”, completed in 2004, and “Girl with Balloon, AP Gold” in 2004 shares the exact subject matter with the previous work sold at auction. As an addition to his quintessential signature, these prints are arguably distinctive in raising an interesting dialogue on the impact of pictorial composition and framing.
Background on Girl with Balloon series:
The subject “Girl with Balloon” first appeared on the side of a bridge on the South Bank in London, in 2002. Since then, multiple versions were sited in other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as of other mediums, such as acrylic on canvas with spray paint. Together, these variations convey a depiction of a girl in a silhouette, reaching out her arm towards a heart-shaped balloon. It is noticeable that Banksy carefully plays with the notion of movement and perception. The flatness of the balloon remains rigid, meanwhile the undulating string provides a sense of action. Contrasted with the silhouette of the girl, it is an opportunity to question the reality of the subjects in the works. Subjectively, Banksy invites viewers to reflect on the binary of physicality and imagination. Given the chance that the girl is a mere shadow, it challenges our perception on existence. Printed on a white background, it emphasizes serenity and an undivided attention on the subjects. The composition of a linear correlation between the girl and the balloon generates simultaneous interpretations; It depicts the girl releasing a balloon, as well as the girl catching the balloon. Either interpretation is fitting to a specific purpose. For instance, a stencil of a similar piece with a different balloon was created on the third year of the civil war in Syria. Collectively, it confirms the versatile yet personalised nature of street art, as it could very well transmit a powerful message beyond the illustrated.
Dialogue on pictorial composition and framing:
As mentioned earlier, the selected pieces at Phillips are incredible, as both corresponds with his ubiquitous signature, however, it also suggests a difference in ambience through its colour variation and choice of framing. “Girl with Balloon, AP Gold” is distinctive for its gold coloured heart, paired with a triumphal and intricate frame, a classic reminiscence of historical paintings that were hung at the Salon. In fact, preeminent religious paintings were also paired with a golden frame. Since early quattrocento (Fourteenth Century), gilded frames were meant to protect the painting within. While this is unlikely the case for Banksy’s print, it serves to challenge and break our perception that gold equates wealth, royalty and superiority. In comparison, “Girl with Balloon” illustrates the girl with a red balloon, paired with a black frame. The simplicity of the work allows us to contextualize our personal experience and connect with the piece. It also embodies the transition of a classical, graceful ambience, to a clear reference of modernity. Furthermore, considering the recent “Girl with Balloon”’s interactive frame-like shredder, it plays with the marriage between a painting and the frame, as it has always been our understanding that that a framed painting belongs in a gallery or museum setting. However, Banksy manipulated our understanding to critique and challenge its formal and rigid usage. Altogether, it attests the impact and perception of colour and frame, that is directly correlated with our preconceived knowledge of past and present.
Raphael,?Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, 1518. Sold at Christie’s London in July 2007. Photograph courtesy of?Paul Mitchell Ltd