Banksy is a well know graffiti street artist using stencils and spray cans, many people believe him to be original, but others compare his style and choice of media to Blek Le Rat.
Within graffiti culture, some would look negatively at any one imitating an others style and ideas. But also the choice of media and choosing to make street art limits the creator to using a spray can and painting the streets.
“I did not invent anything. I took ideas from everywhere. The only thing I did was combine things together.” (Blek le rat)
"I’m not interested in convincing people in the art world that what I do is art. I’m more bothered about convincing people in the graffiti community that what I do is really vandalism! " (Banksy)
The French artist Blek Le Rat made stencil graffiti street art with the intention of having people view his imagery without having to purchase it, or go to a gallery and to make a political commentary that shows a discontent with society.
Rats are a symbolic character of disease, pestilence, and vilified by the villagers in the fairy tail featuring the Pied piper. In contrast to this, the way Blek le rat and Banksy use the imagery, says we are underground, we are the street, we are a subculture you can’t understand, you can’t see me because I come out late at night and by the morning I have single handily changed your world.
“Blek started out in and around 1981 cutting stencils of rats and spraying them in and around Paris, and the sudden “outbreak” of Blek rats all over town was noticed. He has put up thousands of these creatures around the city, and his reason is simple: rats are the only free animals in the city and that they are feared by humankind.” (Alan Bernard 2007)
As with most graffiti art, everybody is the intended audience. Some people will notice and others won’t, some of those that do notice will not take it in or be affected by the images. Equally some of those that notice will be other graffiti/street artist’s who will admire or criticise according to the cultural rituals associated with graffiti.
The lettering/typography used by Blek le rat is rough and ready, not refined and done with the intention of quickly putting the name ‘Blek’ in to the collective consciousness. Using a stark graphic, low-tech representation of a rat could relate to the idea that rats are rough and ready, quick witted and able to survive.
The stencils used by Banksy are more sophisticated giving the rats a sense of sophistication, more like a ninja, Special Forces type of rat. This sophistication gives weight to the idea/ political message that Banksy is trying to portray.
Blek Le Rat: Pioneer of Street Art, Jun 11, 2007
Austere Chic, A random look at simplicity , April 2010
@ http://austerechic.blogspot.com/2010/04/banskys-rats-love-story.htmlaccessed 02/10/10
Image taken from Life Before Banksy – Blek Le Rat, Dec 5th 2008
Interview: Blek Le Rat: “Banksy, call me”, Aug 9, 2009