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Banksy vs. The Trees: Street Art Sparks Urban Debate


A thought-provoking new Banksy artwork featuring a pruned tree has sparked a lively discussion around the management of urban greenery in London. The elusive street artist’s latest mural, which appeared on the side of a building in the Finsbury Park area, creatively incorporates a pollarded tree as its centerpiece.

The mural features green paint sprayed on the wall behind the tree’s trimmed branches, creating the illusion of lush foliage. Additionally, Banksy included a stenciled figure holding a sprayer next to the tree, further playing into the nature-inspired theme.

Lawrence-Thor Stephen, the 33-year-old owner of Thor’s Trees, a company contracted by Islington Council to prune trees in the borough, immediately recognized the tree featured in the artwork. According to Stephen, his team had pruned the 40-50-year-old cherry tree just a few weeks prior, following strict council instructions on how to trim it.

“We were under strict instruction on how to prune the tree, almost to the centimetre, as to where they [Islington Council] wanted to prune it,” Stephen explained.

The pruning technique used, known as pollarding, is an ancient practice involving the removal of a tree’s upper branches. This method helps control the tree’s growth and extend its lifespan by preventing weak branches from falling.

Stephen believes Banksy deliberately chose the pruned tree as a “blank canvas” for his artwork, recognizing its unique form and potential for creative expression. “It is great how it has inspired Banksy. He would have needed a complete blank canvas, so he must have walked past that tree and thought, ‘that is an ideal blank canvas for me to work with,'” Stephen remarked.

The Banksy mural has not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the area, according to Stephen, but has also sparked a broader conversation about the importance of urban tree management. “It has awoken the importance of trees in the urban environment and how they get managed,” he said.

The artwork has drawn attention from naturalists, tourists, and various professional bodies, generating what Stephen describes as an “extraordinary” dialogue around the practice of tree cutting in cities.

Islington Council has welcomed the artwork, with a spokesperson stating, “Culture is a powerful way to tell meaningful stories, and we welcome this artwork in Islington, a borough that celebrates creativity.” The council has no plans to remove the mural and hopes to keep the tree alive, allowing it to re-bud across its crown in the spring.

As people continue to flock to the area to admire Banksy’s creation, the pruning firm boss believes the artwork has successfully highlighted the significance of urban greenery and sparked a healthy debate about how best to manage it. “It is really good to know people are opening up around the discussion of art and urban landscapes,” Stephen said.

The mural’s unexpected canvas – a pruned tree – has transformed it into a living, evolving piece of art, serving as a catalyst for conversations about the intersection of nature, art, and urban life.

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