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Mosquito by British street artist and activist Banksy is a canvas from 2003. It was released as an edition of 25 pieces by Pictures on Walls, Banksy’s original UK print house. It measures 25.4 by 30.3 cm. Back in 2003 when Mosquito was released, it sold for £250. Another version of this work, depicting the mosquito against a mosaic-like montage of Queen Elizabeth’s portrait with the same gas mask against her face, was created in 2002 with spray paint and emulsion on perforated card stencilled with the artist’s name. This image of the queen is the same Banksy used for his provocative and controversial Monkey Queen artwork executed in 2003.
Mosquito by Banksy is a simple two-coloured image made with acrylic and spray paint on canvas. It displays a stenciled mosquito styled as a military force with large wings and a gas mask. It is painted as a flying combatant in action, swooping down to attack, however the image simultaneously strikes as ironic and anachronistic: the gas mask covers the insect’s bloodsucking head, disabling it from actually hurting anybody.
The blood-sucking mosquito can be interpreted as the artist’s representation of the casualties of war. Yet, the eerie effect of the image and the generally negative association with mosquitos also gives it an antagonistic air - perhaps it also alludes to the desperate soldiers fighting in war, caught and suffocating between duty and morality. The central figure of the composition is placed inside a circular field of 21 red stars, which recalls the stars surrounding the mountain peak in Banksy's Paranoid Pictures. The artist's name is not visible on the image but is present on the overlap.
Why is Mosquito so important?
Mosquito is a brilliant example of Banksy’s criticism of authority, violence and militarism. A large part of Banksy's street art pieces, screen prints and canvas mock militarism so as to denounce the trivialisation of violence. The works Applause, Bomb Hugger and Heavy Weaponry condemn militarism and above all the trivialisation of modern warfare and its danger over the populations.
These artworks directly call out the role of governments and authorities in glorifying and popularising violence, as well as the involvement of ‘big money’ and the capitalist machine in such military operations. Flying Coppers, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day satirises militarism by juxtaposing innocent and childish popular elements like yellow smiley faces, angel-like wings and little girl’s pink bows. Animals like the mosquito appear often throughout Banksy’s images to address various social issues. For instance in his iconic Rat series, Laugh Now or Barcode. They usually symbolise the working class and the suffering masses vis-a-vis the elite and authorities.
Banksy's series of record album covers Bad Meaning Good also mock authority and excessive control with comical elements or situations. Finally, Banksy's screenprint CND Soldiers is the artist's only work which explicitly condemns warfare and calls for peace.
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