URBAN NERDS – The Female Banksy?
Bambi is a female street artist growing in momentum. For over five years her reputation and work has been slowly building, her work gradually accumulating as creative stains on many a public building and wall in the Islington and Camden area of London. A London girl through and through, she was born and raised in Hoxton and is now based in Islington. Like Banksy she is a guerrilla artist: her identity is unknown. All that is known about her is that she is in her mid-thirties and is a graduate of the Central St Martins School of Art. On November 9th her first exhibition debuted at the Walton Fine Arts Gallery in London and has been extended due to popular demand. This is an immense milestone in her journey as an artist.
Street art is a macho and hard area, let’s face it. When it first arrived in Britain in the late eighties and early nineties it was seen as a yet another social-ill from America. Its foundations are based on rebelling against the establishment and society, a creative blot on public life putting the middle finger up to anyone attempting to assert their control and power over the masses. This, however, is outdated. The sensitivities of our modern society have dulled considerably. We’re bored of offensive slogans and graffiti wars, the street art sphere hungers for a softer, feminine touch.
Enter Bambi. Her work is refreshing because she doesn’t seek to challenge society, rather reflect it. Traditional street art is focussed at provoking action, a spontaneous response – a reflex almost, because it was born out of a desire to rebel. In contrast Bambi merely seeks to stimulate thought, in turn provoking action. Her piece last year on the then prospective Duke and Duchess of Cambridge captioned ‘A Bit Like Marmite’ reflects how the royal wedding and family unites and divides opinion and demonstrating its role as almost a cultural Berlin Wall.
Of course Bambi is not unique in this approach. In recent years street art as a creative movement has increasingly moved to abandon its roots and establish itself as ‘proper’ art, no longer merely the scrawlings of some kid in a tracksuit on a council estate. Street art is now real art with agents and galleries and exhibitions and clientele. Bambi’s celebrity fan base includes notable figures such as Adele, Robbie Williams and Brad Pitt, her debut exhibition no doubt likely to catalyse the numbers of famous figures who will be jumping on her bandwagon.
Similarities between Bambi and Banksy only really lie in the aesthetics of materials and technique. Banksy secretes sharp wit and irony in his work whereas Bambi is much more playful, light-hearted; the artistic equivalent of a strawberry cupcake compared to a zesty lemon tart. The majority of her work is of popular cultural figures such as Amy Winehouse and the Royals but occasionally frequented with more provocative subjects, most notably her piece of the Afghan war hero who came back to the UK only to lose everything – aptly titled ‘Hero to Zero’. This blend of the frivolous and emotionally stimulating subjects only makes Bambi more artistically intriguing.
Has she got the potential to become the next Banksy? Street art like any art is subjective and universal appeal entails appealing to a mass market, but Bambi’s work is an example of how this can be achieved. Her subjects are interesting, something people can identify with and themes that are easily discernible. Her meanings and messages aren’t cryptic, the lone monochrome withdrawn looking figure in ‘Hero to Zero’ is a simple representation of his story, yet nonetheless effective. It doesn’t take an academic or critic to pull apart what she is trying to say, just someone with feeling. The next Banksy? Maybe – possibly even greater.
Check out Walton Fine Arts, Bambi’s exclusive agents as well as the gallery where the exhibition will be held.
Words by Will Oxford.