We Spoke To The Social Media Banksys Whose Online Art Keeps Going Viral

To be honest, I've never really been entirely sure about art.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-art, I can enjoy walking around a gallery as much as the next person, but I can't shake the underlying suspicion that a lot of it might be rubbish.

Lots of art says 'this has a meaning' but also 'the meaning's not obvious' - the point is that it's difficult. And to be honest anything that reliant on abstraction sounds like a bullshitter's paradise to me.

It's probably why most of the art that gets seen outside of the gallery, the art that largely gets shared on social media, isn't particularly highbrow. It's not difficult to understand, it's not abstract, and the points are usually pretty obvious.

Take John Holcroft, who has found online fame thanks to his drawings that skew the pitfalls of modern life. Given his subject matter and the relative ubiquity of his work, he's become something of a social media Banksy.

Credit: John Holcroft

His drawings all say a similar thing about modern life: It's shit.Facebook is evil, Twitter is evil, politicians are evil. Everything's fucking evil. There's a deep sense of paranoia and suspicion.

The powers that be are trying to pull the wool over your eyes, but Holcroft's art is keeping you #woke as fuck. So they fly across the net like conspiracy theories, appealing to a generation who feel they've been withheld the answers.

Credit: John Holcroft

When I asked John about his work, he said he thought a lot of art in galleries was pretentious, so made a point of making his work accessible and easy to "get".

"I have a real problem when it comes to modern art. I've been to galleries like Tate Modern and I've seen the works on display. Some of it impresses me but most of the exhibits go straight over my head and some are so pretentious, it makes me angry," he said.

"I'm a freelance illustrator, so I create self promotional work to attract new clients and I base my concepts on things that they can relate to: current affairs, social media, relationships, business.

Credit: John Holcroft

"I'm not on any kind of crusade, but I like to get people thinking. I read once that my work was 'like a giant mirror held up to society, showing us all who we are'. I felt a little flattered at that remark but also a bit embarrassed because it isn't my intention."

John also told me he'd been surprised by his social media fame, but that he didn't intend to be critical of any social media platform, just how we act on it.

"I'm not critical of social media, not at all, in fact I love it. I'm just observing from the sidelines and pointing out things about us," he told me.

"It's never about social media platforms, it's just about us, me included. We Brits laugh at ourselves, our shortcomings and we sneer."

Credit: Steve Cutts

Steve Cutts is another illustrator using art to take a metaphorical knife to our country's neoliberal cadaver. You may have noticed his work last summer, when it made an appearance on Buzzfeed, Metro, Huffington Post and LADbible, all in the space of a month.

"I see a lot of insanity in the way we live, and to progress I think we need to become more aware and look at the options we have as a society more clearly, so if I can add to the discussion surrounding that, then all the better," he told me.

"The themes I choose to focus on are fundamental aspects of modern society that surround and affect all of us, so naturally they are the subject of much of my work.

Credit: Steve Cutts

"I see it as part of my role as an artist to comment on the times we live in, the things that affect us on a daily basis and the aim of my work is to get people thinking and talking more about these aspects."

Both artists make inarguable points about our society's shortcomings, and you can't fault them for relaying these messages in terms people can understand. Art, no matter the form, can be enriching depending on how you interpret it.

However, despite what they say, it's hard to see how these artists aren't critical of social media. The figures in their work are enslaved to it, or dependent on it as a life source. When it's the very platform that's promoting their work, the irony becomes too much.

But then I guess that's just another irony of our flawed society.

James Dawson

James Dawson is a Journalist at LADbible. He has contributed articles to LADbible’s ‘Knowing Me, Knowing EU’ series on the EU referendum, the 'Electoral Dysfunction' series on the 2017 general election, the ‘U OK M8?’ series tackling mental health amongst young men, and for its ‘Climate Change’ initiative in partnership with National Geographic.

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