by Janis on 16th November 2021 / 0 comments

Banksy and his contemporaries

There’s no surprise that Bristol welcomes a pretty varied and diverse blend of visitors. Not only does it have an intriguing historical past to discover, but its present-day is just as mesmerising too.

It’s incredible how the presence of urban street art within a town or city really gives an eclectic twist on a location. You feel that strolling amongst the animated streets and lanes of Bristol, their heart and soul is characterised in the tiniest of corners or on the face of lofty tower blocks.

Either way, each individual artist is revealing an insight into their inner thoughts, fears, dreams, anxieties, or aspirations. For me, they are all worthy of your admiration and a moment of your time.

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Bristol’s most famed street artist is undoubtedly the talented Banksy. However, there are so many other thought-provoking artists that you’ll love.

Hop on a bus or jump on a train, and you’ll discover Bristol’s graffiti coursing through its veins.

How to get to Bristol

- By Train
The nearest mainline railway station is Bristol Temple Meads. Hop-off here and explore the city at your leisure.

- By Foot
A great place to start is Bristol city centre; discover the city on foot to get an inspiring face-to-face experience of the vibrant street art.

‘Where the Wall’ self-guided street art tour

“A Piece Of…Banksy!”

We were gifted from Where the Wall access to a 24-hour self-guided street art walking tour during our visit to Bristol. I was so pleased, as I love street art, and as I sit here writing this article, I’m looking at a framed cardboard stencil on my wall by ‘Jef Aérosol’. A bit of indulgence, I know, but it puts a smile upon my face every time I look at it.

The 13 audio commentaries are narrated by Banksy’s mentor John Nation. John gave a fascinating insight into each piece of artwork and the stories and inspiration behind them.

I’ve added some additional intriguing street art that we found along the way as there is so much depth to Bristol’s talented individuals.

Instagram @johnnation
Instagram @wherethewall

Banksy Artwork in Bristol

Here are a few that have survived

The Mild Mild West

Stokes Croft, Bristol

Let’s start with The Mild Mild West, one of Banksy’s iconic pieces created in the summer of 1999, formerly painted on the side of Subway Records in Stokes Croft, owned by a friend of Banksy’s, Jim Paine.

The Mild Mild West sits high on a wall along Stokes Croft at the junction by Turbo Island and Jamaica Street.

The piece was painted over three days and had a mix of styles, including the name Banksy in his trademark stencilling. However, the main characters are a teddy bear about to throw a Molotov cocktail at three policemen in riot gear. It is thought that the image depicts the two sides of people from Bristol, firstly when they can be fluffy and friendly but also, they can have a rebellious side.

The Banksy piece 'The Mild Mild West' depicting a teddy bear throwing a petrol bomb at riot police
The Mild Mild West
The Mild Mild West is one of Banksy’s most celebrated pieces of work in Bristol and has stood the test of time, even after it was attacked in 2009 with blue paint.

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The Grim Reaper

M Shed, Bristol

In 2003 Banksy rowed across Bristol harbour under darkness to the ship ‘Thekla’, a live music venue and moored along Bristol quayside.

The original stencil said ‘BANKSY’, as this was illegal graffiti, the council ordered the harbourmaster to remove the work. The owners of Thekla stated this was an act of vandalism that it was removed.

Once again, Banksy rowed out to the Thekla and this time painted the ‘Grim Reaper’ on the side of the ship sitting in a rowing boat.

The stencilled artwork 'The Grim Reaper', now on display in M-Shed museum in Bristol
The Grim Reaper - Banksy in M-Shed
The Grim Reaper remained in place until 2014 when the Thekla needed to be taken into a dry dock and repaired. At this time, the artwork had deteriorated and corroded. So, the owners of the Thekla had the Banksy section of the hull removed and repaired. In 2015 it was relocated to the contemporary art display within the M Shed.

Girl with the Pierced Eardrum

Hanover Place, Bristol

The ‘Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’ was painted in 2014. It is a parody of the famous artwork by the Dutch artist Vermeer, The Girl with the Pearl Earring. The location is in an isolated alleyway by Hanover Place at the back of SS Great Britain.

Banksy’s image utilises a yellow security alarm on the wall, and the placement of his work positions the alarm on the earlobe. I must admit this is one of my favourite pieces by Banksy.

The artwork appeared within hours of being rumoured that Banksy had been detained and his identity would be revealed. Needless to say, that was a hoax.

The Banksy street art graffiti piece 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' painted on a wall in the back of the Bristol Marina
Girl with the Pierced Eardrum
In 2020 a face mask mysteriously appeared on the image as a tribute to the frontline workers of the global pandemic. The facemask has since disappeared, it was made of material, so perhaps it couldn’t quite fend off the British weather.

Paint Pot Angel

Inside the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The Paint Pot Angel is on display at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

The piece was commissioned by Banksy for his 2009 exhibition entitled ‘Banksy vs Bristol Museum’. Banksy more or less took over the museum displaying over 80 original Banksy artworks, installations and sculptures.

The immersive experience attracted over 350,000 visitors during the six-week run from all over the world. The average queuing time was around 4 hours.

The Banksy artwork 'Paint Pot Angel' depicting a stone angel with a pot of pink paint deposited over the head now in the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Paint Pot Angel
The Paint Pot Angel was gifted by Banksy to the museum as a legacy of the event.

Another good reason to visit Bristol

Bristol is a great place to explore, and the street art scene was part of our inspiration to delve deeper into the city.

Castles in the Sky

Lower Lamb Street, Bristol

This next unassuming and simplistic Banksy work was painted in 2011 and reads ‘YOU DON’T NEED PLANNING PERMISSION TO BUILD CASTLES IN THE SKY’.

The location is above a loading bay on the side of Bristol Central Library along the quiet Lower Lamb Street. The position of this stencil is thought to have been chosen by Banksy as he was educated as a child in the nearby Bristol Cathedral School.

A loading platform that is home to the Banksy piece ‘YOU DON’T NEED PLANNING PERMISSION TO BUILD CASTLES IN THE SKY’
‘YOU DON’T NEED PLANNING PERMISSION TO BUILD CASTLES IN THE SKY’
A large section of the street art was removed when building work was undertaken on the library. Even though it was suspected to be a Banksy, the construction work proceeded, and it was too late once it had been verified. The only section that remains of the original Banksy piece is the word ‘SKY’.

If you're intrigued to visit the historic cities of Bristol and Bath, then why not check out Lonely Planet's pocket travel guide. Full of helpful advice, interesting facts and time-saving tips.

You can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Pulling the Plug

College Green, Bristol

A former work by Banksy, ’ Pulling the Plug’, was illegally painted in 2001 on the Bristol City Council Head Office, in front of its water feature.

It was Banksy’s first piece painted in an exposed and risky location and depicted a deep-sea diver with a huge plug in his hand. It is believed to indicate that Banksy was pulling the plug on the council’s graffiti clean-up team. The image only lasted around six hours before it was removed by the Bristol council.

The centre of Bristol City Council building where the Banksy work 'Pulling the Plug' once was.
 Location of former work ‘Pulling the Plug’
As you can imagine, very few pictures of this work were taken.

Well Hung Lover

Park Street, Bristol

Nearby ‘Pulling the Plug’ is the location of ‘Well Hung Lover’.

Banksy painted this stencil illegally in the summer of 2006 in another risky location, as it’s at the eye-level view from the bridge along Park Street. Banksy had friends within the construction industry. Its believed that scaffolding and a platform were erected with a black mesh around for protection. It would have appeared harmless to most passers-by, and it gave Banksy the privacy and anonymity he needed.

The image shows a suited man looking out of a window for his partner’s secret lover, hanging naked from the windowsill below.

The stencilled art work 'Well Hung Lover' by Banksy of a naked man hanging from a window in Bristol
Well Hung Lover
This particular piece caused controversy in Bristol as prior to 2006, Bristol City Council were removing all graffiti and street art. Although for this Banksy work, the council issued an online poll to the public to see if it should be removed or kept. An incredible 97% of responses wanted the ‘Well Hung Lover’ stencil to stay. This was a watershed moment as it would open the flood gates to other artists to paint illegally.

Where to stay in Bristol

- Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel - Our choice, located in the heart of Bristol and easy walking distance of many of the city's historic sites. This charming hotel is in a peaceful location, and on-site parking is available.
- The Bristol Hotel - Overlooks the bustling quayside of Bristol harbour and just a short stroll to SS Great Britain. The stylish hotel is surrounded by plenty of restaurants and bars and a great place to base yourself while discovering Bristol.

‘Welcome to Bristol’ by Tats Cru

Quay Street, Bristol
‘Welcome to Bristol’ was created in 2011 by Tats Cru from the Bronx in New York. It’s painted above Quay Street Diner by three members of Tats Cru. I love this piece; it’s based on the famous photograph, ‘Lunch atop a Skyscraper’ taken by Charles Clyde Ebbets in 1932.
A mural above the Quay Street Diner depicting the members of the Tats Cru on an iron girder against a backdrop of Bristol
‘Welcome to Bristol’ by Tats Cru
Instagram @tatscru

Nick Walker’s iconic bowler-hatted vandal

Quay Street, Bristol

This piece of urban art was produced by Nick Walker, one of the world’s best-known street artists. Nick was born in Bristol in 1969 and was a forerunner in the Bristol graffiti scene from the early 80s.

Nick often includes a bowler-hatted gentleman in a pinstripe suit. This giant mural was created for the “See no Evil” event in 2011 along Nelson Street/Quay Street. The unmissable mural stretches high on the side of an otherwise dull grey tower block.

pin-stripe pouring paint down the side of the building.
By Nick Walker for the “See no Evil” event in 2011
A Bronze of ‘Moona Lisa’, a statue of the Mona Lisa bearing her rump in the M-Shed museum in Bristol
Bronze of ‘Moona Lisa’ by Nick Walker

Nick Walker also produced the ‘Moona Lisa’ in 2006, where he spray-painted the Mona Lisa cheekily doing a moonie. Today a life-size bronze sculpture created by the artist is at the Vanguard exhibition in the M Shed.

Instagram @nickwalker_art

Striking mural by Aryz

Nelson Street, Bristol

Aryz is a Spanish artist and illustrator known for his large-scale murals, he was invited to the “See No Evil” event in 2011. This vast piece of art is spray-painted on the side of a five-storey building along Nelson Street.

This work is of an unusual looking wolf or dog; it’s your guess, jumping in the air while wearing a check shirt and bow tie. Incredibly It took Aryz just one day to produce it.

A mural of a strange-looking clothed dog/wolf on the side of an office block in Bristol
By Aryz for the “See no Evil” event in 2011
Instagram @mr_aryz

Tourist Information

If you’re tempted to visit the vibrant city of Bristol, and its striking street art, take a look at the ‘Visit Bristol’ official website.
Visit Bristol Logo

‘Let it Bloom’ by Jody

Charlotte Street, Bristol

This beautiful piece of art was created by Jody, also known as Jody Thomas.

Jody was a significant presence in the graffiti art scene in Bristol during the late 1980s and was creating stencils 10 years prior to Banksy’s arrival. During his younger days, Jody was a regular at the Barton Hill Youth Centre an art project set up by John Nation. This project allowed youngsters to be creative in ways that were frowned upon by the local council.

A mural of a woman holding a large bouquet of flowers in front of her face on the side of a building in Bristol
‘Let it Bloom’ by Jody

Jody is a highly respected artist and also a bit of a perfectionist. ‘Let it Bloom’ was a 3-day commission by Florists UK in 2018. I love the vintage look of this piece and the muted-warm tones that blend with the weather-beaten wall.

Instagram @jody_artist

‘Uncertain World’ by Alex Lucas

Park Row, Bristol

‘Uncertain World’ along Park Row was produced by local artist Alex Lucas. Alex, who is also known as Lucas Antics, created this mural in collaboration with the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute.

Alex’s design was inspired by the institutes’ Uncertain World research. She hoped that her artwork would encourage the public to ponder how different life could be. If there were greater levels of carbon dioxide in the air and higher sea levels.

A mural of a freakish sea creature on the side of a building in Bristol
‘Uncertain World’ by Alex Lucas

Alex’s artwork is often very vibrant and quirky and can be spotted at various locations around the city. She brings a smile to many people’s faces.

Instagram @lucas_antics

More inspiring street artists

Too many to mention

Mariusz Waras, also known as M-City, is a Polish stencil artist. He produced this massive piece of artwork inspired by Bristol’s industrial past. It can be spotted next to Nick Walker’s bowler-hatted vandal along Nelson Street.

This piece was created for the See No Evil festival in 2012.

Instagram @stencilcity

A construction scene mural on the side of a towerblock in Bristol
Stencil artwork by M-City

Conor Harrington is an Irish artist born in Cork now living in London. He created this striking artwork in Broad Street “The Duel of Bristol’ for the See No Evil festival in 2012.

Conor has an incredible style in depicting almost realistic classical characters, blurred amongst dark and ethereal backgrounds. It brings an elegant blend of mystery and intrigue and presents you with many questions.

Instagram @conorsaysboom

A mural on the side of a building in Bristol of two men duelling on a chessboard.
The Duel of Bristol by Conor Harrington

Little is known of the artist behind this stencil of Queen Elizabeth II nor the story or background of the image on Upper Maudlin Street.
It was painted in the summer of 2012, which was the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s succession to the throne. However, the Ziggy flash across the Queen’s face was also attributed to the 40th anniversary of the release of the David Bowie album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

A mural on the side of a building in Bristol depicting a youthful Queen Elizabeth II wearing David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust makeup
The mystery of the piece by Inkwell

Initially, it was believed to be by Banksy due to a previous stencil image of ‘Police Sniper’ by Banksy in the exact same location. That stencil was defaced by another street artist King Robbo who Banksy had an ongoing feud.
In fact, the artwork is by Inkwell, but as mentioned, this artist is surrounded by mystery.

Disclaimer

This article was produced in partnership with Visit Bristol and Where the Wall in exchange for an honest review and an account of our personal experiences.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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