I wrote a review about Banksy so I thought I’d better write one about his dashing, enigmatic and elusive Welsh counter part ‘Bagsy’.
Bagsy first emerged on to the art scene late in 2017. Exploding into the art world in the most mysterious and unexpected way, by drawing Welsh iconography upon 5p plastic shopping bags and leaving them in Supermarkets for people to unexpectedly find for free.
This act of artistic brilliance has even started some renowned Art Historians to question if we should now refer to the art world of the twenty-first century as “Before Bagsy” (BB) and “After Bagsy” (AB).
Like his Bristol based counterpart the identity of Bagsy is completely unknown. In fact some people have wondered if Bagsy is in fact a Frankenstein Ai style spam bot with what appears to be an endless supple of sharpies and 5p shopping bags.
All that is known is Bagsy can be found in the Rhondda Valley. Much of his art has a strong Rhondda theme, many of the great hero’s and names of those fine Valleys have found themselves depicted on Bagsy ‘bags for life’.
In mid 2018 Bagys took the surprising and totally unexpected act of moving from 5p plastic carriers to Tote bags. Finely printed, these bags better represent and display the detailed intricacies of Bagys vision and have quickly become collectable items. The old joke of you know you’ve made it in Wales is when you have a “Kyffin Williams on the walls” has been replaced with the phrase “when you carry you’re shopping in a Bagsy”….
I’ve adopted somewhat of a humorous approach to this review so far as I thought this better depicts the work of Bagsy but let that not fool you into dismissing the artist or his work as frivolous. Bagsy is a wonderfully entertaining artist, there is a hilarity and a joyful irony to the work. The approach of appropriating plastic shopping and Tote bags as both the canvas and the gallery. Combined with the openness and choice of using a universal useful and extremely common place item as the bag for the conveyance of art and then giving the item over to the pubic where it becomes ether art or functional practical carrier depending on the person. In my mind it’s an approach which is a combination of the Bauhaus art school chair and Andy Warhol soup can. Beauty, practicality, humour and popular culture all in one item. Bagsy is an artist who encompasses the late 2010s Social media/MEME society better than any other artist I know.
One of the things I love about Bagsy is that he doesn’t seem really bothered about the wider art world but just cracks on and makes things. In fact given Bagsy public popularity, the prolific and variety of his output and his fame with interviews with media outlets, Bagsy is arguably one of the most successful artists making work in Wales today.
I’m a keen Sherlock Holmes fan and one of my favourite quotes is from the “Bruce Partington Plans” where someone asks Holmes why he does what he does. Holmes reply is “I play the game for the game’s own sake” meaning he does it for the thrill and the love of the thing not for fame or fortune. It’s this same sensation I feel when viewing Bagsy work. He does it for the love and the thrill of the art. It’s that wonderful act of making and putting something into the world which never existed before.
After all it’s the reason we all get into art in the first place, because we find pleasure and enjoyment in making. We have this unexplainable something which demands us to make. Its something that gets educated or experienced out of us sometimes. We enter the art world loving what we do and often ether leave it never to return or it darkens and dooms us as we get older and it becomes about something else. When I was in art school the scariest thing I was told was that 98% of all art school graduates never make art after leaving. From going through art school Im actually surprised its as high as 2%.
In any other world this would be a disaster for any industry to have 98% of its workforce falling out but in the arts its been the norm since the year go. Bagsy is a wonderful reminder of the joy in the arts, in a world where it’s getting more and more expensive to be an artist, Bagsy shows us you can make art with anything, with just a sharpie and a plastic bag.
Like Bagsy name sake Banksy, they both employ everyday items and places which people disregard but both artists reinvent these blank spaces and items as their art.
In 1922 Rubyard Kipling wrote his poem “The Jester” in which he states the three highest forms of virtue. The first is to save one’s friend by risk of yourself. The second is to save someone through wise advice. The third however is to save someone through jest and mirth and even though it’s the lowest of the three perhaps it’s the best form as Kipling states with jest “there do the Angels resort”. Kipling was a great believer in the saving power of humour (as am I) and its with this spirt I regard Bagsy work. In a world that isn’t particularly great right now and is turning darker with every turn and at a time where the arts are mirroring this turmoil in its output and its own funding problems it’s refreshing and fantastic to have Bagsy making jest and art.
However the biggest question is “Who is Bagsy” and to be honest I don’t think it matters. Part of the wonderful thing about Bagsy is the artist isn’t a name above the crowd but anyone in the crowd. The arts is famed for the particular personality types it attracts but Bagsys fame is in his work not in who he/she is. Which I think is the way artists should be, that we do things just for the doing letting bloggers tell our stories.
You can see Bagsys work by visiting his website or checking out the social media channels such as his/her Instagram . Of course there are a whole load of theories and rumours surrounding Bagsy. Some say that Bagsy knows how many roads a man must walk down before you call him a man, others say Bagsy shot the shelf but he didn’t shoot the deputy. Others say that if you convert his website into a binary translator there are 2’s. There are even whispers that Bagsy is actually the person Ricky Martin is talking about in his song ‘livin la vida loca’ and then there are even some who say Bagsy is the latest transformation of the Count of St. Germain. We may never know and I kinda hope we never find out
“Living la vida Bagsy….”