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The story of the Banksy Finsbury Park Tree

Hornsey Road Banksy
Hornsey Road Banksy – adding colour and life to the area

It’s a week since Banksy’s reworking of a heavily pollarded tree appeared on the Hornsey Road in Finsbury Park, North London and a lot has happened since. Let’s take a look back at the most exciting week in the life of a tree that has resolutely stood in place since the 70’s.

A new Banksy work appears in North London

Reports began to surface of a new Banksy work around midday on Sunday 17th March. In fact the first visitors to the location reported the paint was still wet and dripping down the wall. It’s noticeable that in the image Banksy has put on the paint running down the wall is nowhere near as developed as it appears in later pictures. Also at the scene was a large piece of card, presumably used to to shield the stencilled image of the figure that stands at the base of the work. Splattered with the same green paint that adorns the wall the fate of this part of the process of producing the artwork is not known. If you’re interested, history tells us it’s probably best to keep an eye an Ebay for something that may or may not be the actual discarded piece.

Banksy tree
The extensive drips at the foot of the tree begin to resemble a willow but the tree itself is a mature cherry.

On the day a crowd quickly began to gather despite no official confirmation from Banksy that the work was his. James Peak, he of the infamous Banksy Podcast on BBC Sounds, kept his promise that he would add to his series whenever a new Banksy appeared and was quickly soliciting a variety of opinions on the work. It’s always intriguing to be there when local people start to realise a particular street is never going to be the same again and the podcast captures the reactions well.

Local MP and former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was also quick to pick up on the news. Posting on Facebook, he commented “Banksy has come to Islington! What wonderful artwork, proving there is hope for our natural world everywhere”. Elsewhere UK new organisations including the BBC, ITV and Sky quickly ran with the story. Conspicuous by their absence were the usual suspects with their chequebooks offering the owner cash for their wall before they realise its actual worth. There may be several reasons for this. The wall it is painted on is extremely flaky already, including where the figure has been painted, making it difficult to remove intact. Then there is the whole point of the piece, the tree. How do you remove that? The green paint also covers a large area with multiple surfaces and would make no sense on its own. If anything was to be removed, it would be the figure which appears in what looks like three shades of green brandishing a pump action pressurised paint sprayer.

Banksy Hornsey Road Tree – the figure is equipped with a pump action pressurised hose sprayer

The new green canopy for the tree works best from a specific place and angle. Stand too close and the branches will poke out of the top of the tree. Stand on the road and you can’t see the figure. Stand by the entrance to the adjacent to the flats and you can take in the whole scene as intended. Choosing the perfect artwork to complement a carefully chosen location is what makes a Banksy so meaningful.

On Monday Banksy essentially confirmed it as his work by posting it via his Instagram account with the debate around it’s message well underway. Was it a nod to St Patrick’s day celebrations on the same day, with its green hued theme? Was the green paint, looking identical to the official colour used by the local Islington council, part of a dig at them and their policies? There was no clue on Banksy’s post other than a photo of the tree as it was, heavily pruned back and his revised version. The addition of the paint has essentially restored the tree back to its former self. What was a dull, lifeless scene has been transformed and maybe that’s the point. We don’t need to live in grey, lifeless streets. With a bit more thought we can add nature back into our environment – and that’s really important for our well-being on multiple levels.

The local council seemed to take any criticism on the chin, in fact local councillor Flora Williamson was positively effusive about it, tweeting – “By far the most exciting thing to happen on today’s canvass session on Hornsey Road was seeing that Banksy had come to Tollington overnight. Lots of local interest – I’m a fan of it”

Of course history tells us that not everyone will be so enamoured. First the local council installed both fencing and allocated wardens to patrol after people had been seen climbing the tree. Then, early on the morning of Wednesday March 20th, someone took it upon themselves to throw white paint over the fence at the right hand side of tree. And so a week later it’s still largely there, a little bit damaged but largely intact . That said extensive work has been taking place to preserve it with a timber frame and perspex – which now ruin the effect of the piece. Not only that – the nozzle of the sprayer has been removed / fallen off. There’s even a little matching opportunistic work by Ronzo by the side of it too if you look carefully. How much longer it will last is anyones guess – that wall really is flaky – but in the meantime its making a lot of people very happy to once again see Banksy back on the streets of London with a large scale artwork..

Detail of the figure by Banksy at the base of the tree
Detail of the figure by Banksy at the base of the tree
Banksy tree on Hornsey Road
Banksy tree on Hornsey Road

Location of Banksy Tree art work: If you aim for 388 Hornsey Road, London, N19 4HT you can’t miss it.

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