I’m no fan of graffiti art, most of which is banal at best. Having said that, I find today’s AP images of Bansky’s work interesting. My chief objection to much of what passes for art these days is that the painter needn’t “qualify;” ie, make a masterpiece in the original sense of the term, demonstrating his mastery of his craft. It seems to me that Bansky has mastered his craft. It is visually correct. For example his Nazi catches the commonality of a man when separated from his Nazi stuff. His tiger looks like a tiger even though he must have done it quickly, and it says something. What I’m not sure; but it does stimulate thought in the way that a haiku does. The multimillion-dollar piece of “art” that was auctioned off a couple of months ago does neither. It was simply a vertical line on a contrasting base color. Duh!
We seem to have lost the distinction between fine and decorative art. In Italy I was as impressed by the marble and iron work in churches as by the oil paintings and frescoes. But that does not mean that the decorative artist had mastered all the details of portraiture, perspective, symbolism, etc. He considered himself to be a simple craftsman, albeit an excellent one. What he had done was master the materials of his craft and a sense of the appropriate. I like to cite Jackson Pollock with his famous drip paintings. He asked his wife if it were painting. I would argue that it wasn’t. It was decorative and showed a fine mastery of his materials; but his later paintings were unexciting, and his preceding a pale imitation of Picasso.