Rage, the Flower Thrower, by famous British street artist Banksy, is undoubtedly the artist’s best-known work. This masterpiece and great classic of street art boasts perfect simplicity and unrivalled power. It is as poetic as it is political. But what is the real meaning beyond the stencil?

A message of peace

The artwork Love is in the Air (Flower Thrower) was painted by Banksy in 2003 in the streets of Jerusalem. Created using stencils, it is typical of his ironic, poetic and political style. The artist had already completed a project entitled Santa’s Ghetto on the West Bank Barrier and near Aida Camp in support of Palestine.

In his book Wall & Piece (published in 2005), Banksy explains that while he was painting the Israeli West Bank Wall a resident told him how beautiful he had made the wall. Banksy thanked him for the compliment. But the man explained, “We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.”

Three details in-depth

#1 The mask

 Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy
Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy, 2003, Jerusalem (detail)

The stencil shows a man wearing a basketball cap and scarf covering his face to hide his identity. The hidden face draws parallels with Banksy himself, who, like many graffiti artists, has done everything possible to ensure his anonymity.

The subject of the famous British artist’s identity has been hotly debated. He is known to be linked to the Bristol music scene, but the rumour he may be a member of the band Massive Attack has never been proven. The mystery is part of what makes him so popular.

#2 The bouquet of flowers

 Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy details
Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy, 2003, Jerusalem (detail)

The man is throwing a bouquet of flowers, although the position of his body looks more like that of a man throwing a projectile, a cocktail Molotov or a stone, like the paving stones thrown during the French Revolution (think Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix, for example).

While the man is painted in black and white, the flowers have been given colour to add emphasis. The message is “make peace, not war”, in a time when numerous conflicts divide the world.

#3 The man’s posture

 Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy details
Rage, the Flower thrower, Banksy, 2003, Jerusalem (detail)

The man’s posture echoes the images of protests, particularly the university protests of the 1960s. Except in this case the protester is a pacifist. Banksy often criticizes society, capitalism and war in his art.

The fact the artwork was created in Jerusalem is also highly symbolic, as the location is occupied by military forces and a hotbed of weapons. The spray paint and stencil silhouette is life-size to further appeal to passers-by and encourage them to identify with it.

Similar artists at KAZoART: Black Power, Natty

Street artist Natty also works with stencils on various media, expressing strong messages promoting the fight for freedom and peace. As in this work, Black Power:

Black power, Natty
Black Power, acrylic on wood, Natty