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Banksy’s Riot Police in the Field, Peace garnered plenty of attention and praise when it was featured at an exhibition of his work at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in the summer of 2009. Bristol, located in southwest England, has been the setting of numerous riots over the years, including the Hartcliffe Riot of 1992. This riot, ignited after two men died in a police chase, shaped Banksy’s political perspective as a youth and thus much of his subsequent art.
In this painting five police officers in full riot gear are merrily running through a field with flowers. In the foreground two officers are holding hands, and behind them one is smelling a flower. The other two have their arms stretched out in an expression of pure joy. Banksy uses irony to criticize the heavy-handed force often used by riot police in the UK and elsewhere to quell disturbances by portraying them as possessing the innocence of children. In this work the officers are totally in the moment without thinking of the culturally manufactured divisions that bring unnecessary conflict among adults. The green background in the work represents this more natural state of man before it is corrupted by such divisions.