The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross & Banksy: Watch Banksy Paint a Mural on the Jail That Once Housed Oscar Wilde

It would be dif­fi­cult to think of two artists who appear to have less in com­mon than Bob Ross and Banksy. One of them cre­ates art by pulling provoca­tive stunts, often ille­gal, under the cov­er of anonymi­ty; the oth­er did it by paint­ing innocu­ous land­scapes on pub­lic tele­vi­sion, spend­ing a decade as one of its most rec­og­niz­able per­son­al­i­ties. But game rec­og­nize game, as they say, in pop­u­lar art as in oth­er fields of human endeav­or. In the video above, Banksy pays trib­ute to Ross by lay­er­ing nar­ra­tion from an episode of The Joy of Paint­ing over the cre­ation of his lat­est spray paint strike, Cre­ate Escape: an image of Oscar Wilde, type­writer and all, break­ing out jail — on the actu­al exte­ri­or wall of the decom­mis­sioned HM Prison Read­ing.

“The expan­sive and unblem­ished prison wall was a dar­ing and per­fect spot for a Banksy piece,” writes Colos­sal’s Christo­pher Job­son. “It’s best known for its most famous inmate: Oscar Wilde served two years in the prison from 1895–1897 for the charge of ‘gross inde­cen­cy’ for being gay.” This expe­ri­ence result­ed in the poem The Bal­lad of Read­ing Gaol, which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture as read by Wilde him­self.

Where Wilde con­vert­ed his mis­for­tune into ver­bal art, Banksy ref­er­ences it to make a visu­al state­ment of char­ac­ter­is­tic brazen­ness and ambi­gu­i­ty. As with most of his recent pieces, Cre­ate Escape has clear­ly been designed to be seen not just by passers­by in Read­ing, but by the whole world online, which The Joy of Paint­ing with Bob Ross & Banksy should ensure.

“I thought we’d just do a very warm lit­tle scene that makes you feel good,” says Ross in voiceover. But what we see are the hands of a min­er’s-hel­met­ed Banksy, pre­sum­ably, prepar­ing his spray cans and putting up his sten­cil of Wilde in an inmate’s uni­form. “Lit­tle bit of white,” says Ross as a streak of that col­or is applied to the prison wall. “That ought to light­en it just a lit­tle.” In fact, every sam­ple of Ross’ nar­ra­tion reflects the action, as when he urges thought “about shape and form and how you want the limbs to look,” or when he tells us that “a nice light area between the darks, it sep­a­rates, makes every­thing real­ly stand out and look good.” With his sig­na­ture high-con­trast style, Banksy could hard­ly deny it, and he would seem also to share Ross’ feel­ing that in paint­ing, “I can cre­ate the kind of world that I want to see, and that I want to be part of.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Paint­ing Free Online: 403 Episodes Span­ning 31 Sea­sons

Expe­ri­ence the Bob Ross Expe­ri­ence: A New Muse­um Open in the TV Painter’s For­mer Stu­dio Home

Banksy Strikes Again in Lon­don & Urges Every­one to Wear Masks

Banksy Debuts His COVID-19 Art Project: Good to See That He Has TP at Home

Hear Oscar Wilde Recite a Sec­tion of The Bal­lad of Read­ing Gaol (1897)

Pat­ti Smith Reads Oscar Wilde’s 1897 Love Let­ter De Pro­fundis: See the Full Three-Hour Per­for­mance

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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