The key to unlocking Banksy’s latest mural

Later techniques included Baroque trompe-l’œil murals that combined real architecture with painted illusions to create a seamless effect from a specific viewpoint, such as Andrea Pozzo’s Fake Dome in the Church of St Ignatius in Rome, and anamorphosis and foreshortening in paintings by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan commented in On the Gaze as Object Petit A (1973) that the use of anamorphosis, especially in The Ambassadors, is one of the few methods by which viewers can be made aware of their gaze – he argued that the initial “moment of seeing”, as when perceiving the skull in Holbein’s painting for the first time, is the closest people can get to an awareness of their gaze.

Whether it’s a tiny stencil or a four-storey mural (painted in the particular shade of green used by Islington council in local signs), Banksy’s street art has the ability to shift the viewer’s perspective – something that his latest work plays on.

By creating an abstract image that’s hard to steal, and which relies on a decaying tree to make sense, the elusive artist has transformed an urban landscape. In a decidedly unleafy grove of North London, green splatters across a wall coalesce. It might not convince up close, but viewed from the end of the block and over the heads of selfie-takers, the mural offers something else – it gives the pollarded cherry tree in the tiny front yard of an apartment block a sense of hope. And those of us who walk past it, day after day, a sense of what could be, if we shifted our perspective.

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