The image shows a prisoner sliding down bedsheets that are tied together and anchored by a typewriter. As the BBC reports, some observers have noted a resemblance between the escaping con and Reading’s most famous inmate Oscar Wilde, who was sentenced to two years hard labor for gross indecency with other men, and who celebrated his release with the poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”.
While the graffiti appeared to be in Banksy’s style, the author wasn’t confirmed until today, March 4th, when the guerrilla artist shared a video called “Create Escape”. It used archival commentary from the late, great Bob Ross, overlaying his words with footage of someone — presumably Banksy — painting on the walls of Reading Prison. These Rossian nuggets are often used to satirical effect, as when the short film shows a pair of befuddled police officers staring up at the graffiti while Ross chuckles to himself. “That really is the fun part of this whole technique,” he says. Watch it below.
The jail has been closed since 2013, and the government is hoping to sell it to developers to be turned into housing. But a growing chorus of artists and activists, including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer, have called for Reading Prison to be transformed into an arts venue.
“We are thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called Create Escape,” said a statement from the Reading Borough Council. “The council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image.”
As for the Ministry of Justice, it is “aware that Banksy has confirmed he is responsible for the graffiti.” The Ministry added, “We are considering next steps and will provide an update in due course.”