Banksy-Vandal-Urban-Guerrilla-ArtistIt's a name that always courts controversy and divides opinions. But there's one thing that holds true: the name Banksy evokes strong feelings and gets people talking and thinking about art, which can only be a good thing.

Whatever your point of view, there's no denying that Banksy's work is resonant and politically aware – whether that makes you uncomfortable as a viewer or brings a wry smile to your lips will depend on your particular outlook on the world. We take a look at the artist's work.

A Brief History

For many years, Banksy's identity was a mystery, even to his close family. It's now suggested that his real name is Robin Gunningham, but even that has yet to be confirmed. He first came to prominence as part of the Bristol underground scene, in the DryBreadZ crew, during the 1980s when urban graffiti was first recognised as a growing art form. You can take a walking tour around the area to see early examples of his work. His main inspiration was a graffiti artist called 3D, who was a founder member of the band Massive Attack. There is also evidence of similarities to the work of Blek le Rat, Jef Aerosol and the members of Crass, an anarcho-punk band who stencilled graffiti on the London underground during the 70s and 80s.

The Banksy Style

Bankys's style has developed over the years from simple graffiti to a more sophisticated use of stencils to produce the politically charged social messages we see today. His simplified use of imagery combined with epigrams about political issues of the day often subvert and satirise the 'establishment' and ask the viewer to think more deeply about the state of the world in which we live. Recurring imagery features such themes as apes, rats, children, policemen and royalty.

His work often crops up overnight in cities around the world on walls and under bridges and frequently utilises exiting street features such as windows, doors or fire alarms as a base for the pieces. He has worked in places as diverse as America, Israel, Palestine, Jamaica and the UK. By using art materials such as spray paints and stencils, the work he produces can be prepared in advance and executed quickly in situ, assisting with the element of surprise in its discovery.

Banksy's work is highly in demand and is often the subject of law suits when it is removed from its original location and sold at prestigious art galleries around the world for many thousands of pounds. If you're keen to try to create your own original Banksy at home, it's a simple matter of purchasing stencil film, a cutter and some spray paints, such as can be found at http://www.jacksonsart.com/. Then all you need is the imagination to produce the imagery and accompanying slogan to suit your personality and expressive nature.

Love him for his fearless political statements or hate him for his vandalism, there's no doubt that Banksy and his controversial work make art the subject of discussion in offices, in playgrounds and around dinner tables throughout the world. He would be pleased that this mixture of art and controversy is so high on everyone's agenda.