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A good artist is not someone who sells a lot of paintings for an exorbitant price. A good artist is not someone whose name is famed all over the world. The skill level of an artist is not judged by his/her critics or reviews. It's not based on the number of paintings completed within a certain period. It's not based on who likes the art or who buys it. In my opinion, the world's best painter should be judged solely on skill and creativity used in his or her creations and possibly an x factor. This maybe a more difficult, ambiguous, and subjective criteria than the previously listed measurements, but in all honesty, I can think of no better reasoning for selection of such a title that will pay more respect to the artists raw ability and talent.

So now that we have established the unit of measurement, let's get down to the main topic. The year 2021 will most likely be remembered as the year the Covid-19 pandemic ran riot in most countries around the world. Without doubt it was a year that required inspiration and motivation to press-on and survive. Art can bring hope. This phrase was experienced and brought into reality in more ways than one in 2021. Creating a masterpiece that inspires hope during a period of calamity and suffering is in my view an accolade that deserves the title of the best painter in the world for the year.

Ironically my vote for the best painter for 2021, is a mystery man who goes by the nickname - Banksy. Nobody knows his real name for certain and in fact his physical appearance is mere speculation based on eyewitness testimony at recently conducted one-on-one interviews. He is commonly known to be Robin Gunningham as identified by a local newspaper in 2008. To be honest, everyone who calls himself an art lover knows Banksy by his ability to dazzle the world with his vision, creativity, and skill. Banksy is a political activist who communicates his view on local and global matters via street art. He is based in England, where most of his work is seen on walls, subways, buildings, bridges, basically a public place with a suitable surface. Given, the social, financial, and political turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic, it was no surprise that this influential artist would use his talents to promote his ideology and publicize his opinion on the matter through art. His ability to make us stop and think is unbelievably refreshing to say the least, as he accomplishes this by simple sketches utilizing minimum color combinations. This ability was heavily used at a time when most of the world was incarcerated and more or less shutdown. Thus, confirming the fact that art can not only survive a global pandemic, but also thrive, as it speaks directly to human emotion and offers empathy within a message.

At midnight on valentine's day 2021, Banksy posted on Instagram a photo of his latest artwork which was meant as a tribute to the celebration of love. The painting was in the form of a graffiti on a wall in Bristol, England. It featured a little girl using a catapult to fire red flowers to an aimless target higher up in the wall. The splatter was created with spray-painted red flowers which also fell upon the road nameboard that was along-side the wall. The artwork beautifully captured the heart and emotion behind the auspicious day and not surprisingly was named 'Valentine's Banksy'.

Banksy's rise to fame is mainly due to his attitude that is very visibly portrayed by his art and his mysterious identity. As the year 2020 unfolded the need for 'out there' art and extroverted opinion sharing became more and more. It could be because people were often fighting boredom and monotonous hours due to the never-ending lockdowns and travel restrictions that were brought about by the pandemic. This fight, brought about a pull towards 'not the usual' type of entertainment and art. Banksy obliged with his fearless depictions of human behavior and personal ideology. He not only gifted the world of art with his usual brilliance but also used his talents to assist in the need of the hour. As an artist who always shared the heartbeat of the common-man, Banksy identified the growing need of the health care industry and urgency of helping those who are sick. As a result, he gifted a painting to a British hospital together with the funds of its anticipated sale. The painting was a monochrome sketch of a small boy playing with a nurse doll, depicting love and appreciation towards the first line health care workers who were fighting the pandemic. In the summer of 2021, this exceptional artist pledged the proceeds of the sale of 'Mediterranean Sea view' to a hospital in Bethlehem. The sale resulted in the hospital receiving a sum of USD 2.8 million in funds, which incidentally was Banksy's second highest sale at auctions. A few months later he directly helped fund the work of a refugee rescue ship which was the inspiration behind the masterpiece.

Possibly Banksy's most famed painting in 2021 was the sketch of an elderly lady sneezing which was titled 'Achoo'. It was painted on the side wall of a house down Vale Street in the British city of Bristol. It captured the theme of the season and very evidently depicted the way the existing pandemic spread from person to person. The detail of the depiction was so striking that it even included the ladies' dentures flying out of her mouth due to the force of her sneeze, as it blended humor with reality. The street art has since been shared via social media and seen on publications countless of times. So much so that it could easily be argued as the most viewed painting of 2020.

Banksy's contribution to art and to the world goes far beyond paint on a canvas or in this case, a wall, a boat, or the subway. Like I said at the start, an artist cannot be judged on the monetary value of his or her paintings or fame. There is an x factor that comes into play and Banksy has it. More importantly he has proven to be a master in identifying and recreating the human response to reality through art. This has given him my vote for the best painter in the world for the year 2021.

Arun Perera (2021)