Mark Anstee at IWM North: RedBlueRedBlue

Polly Checkland Harding

RedBlueRedBlue is a durational drawing by Mark Anstee; watch it unfold at IWM North this August.

Mark Anstee’s live drawing project at IWM North is more about process than the finished project. To explain – for one hour each day in August, the British artist will be sketching hundreds of toy soldiers in red and blue; so many, in fact, that by the end of the month the figures will have blurred into one another, will have, effectively, cancelled each other out. This is Anstee’s way of conveying the futility of war, suggesting, it seems, that the journey towards resolution inevitably involves too many casualties to be worthwhile. The image will morph from striking symmetry, with rows of uniformed figures in alternating colours, to obliteration – and you can watch as this happens. It’s a sobering idea, when you think about it.

The image will morph from striking symmetry, to obliteration

Which, in many ways, is the point. RedBlueRedBlue is an installation that challenges audience to really interrogate their own perceptions of war, to ask questions about whether conflict is ever truly justified, or if there might be another path we could take. In the year of the Centenary, we’re seeing a wide range of approaches to how we think about war – from the incredible, raging Britannia Waves the Rules and Simon Armitage’s Last Days of Troy, to A Land Fit for Heroes currently at the People’s History Museum, and the giant puppets coming to Liverpool. But what RedBlueRedBlue will do differently is to really capture the evolution of war, the ripples of its impact. Follow the live stream on Youtube, or make repeated visits to the museum, and you can witness a stunning artwork that changes from one moment to the next. And, when it comes to reflections on war, what could be more apt?

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