Whatshisname

Born: Poland (1982)
Lives and works: London
Education: Kingston University
Exhibitions: Covent Garden (2021), Affordable Art Fair (2021), Moniker Art Fair (2019), Fine Art Print Fair (2018)
“People can see the humour in them and they put a smile on their faces: that’s something that you can’t find with many artworks.”

Unapologetically provocative, Whatshisname (aka Sebastian Burdon) fuses themes of childhood, nostalgia and pop culture to create artworks that inspire happy and joyful feelings. His humorous creative alias - inspired by his difficulty remembering artists' names - reflects his art, which has ruffled more than a few feathers in the industry. You can decide for yourself with his new Whatshisname X Castle Fine Art collection!

Inspiration

Sebastian grew up in eastern Poland in the 1980s and ‘90s, during a time of political and socio-economic unrest. At the age of seven, he began to create imagery using an ATARI® 130XE™ computer. Because of his dyslexia, visual imagery was his way of understanding the world, with television programmes and films having a huge impact on his creative style. He says: “I would watch TV for hours, absorbing it all. The colours seemed so bright."

After studying IT and computers in Warsaw, he moved to London, where he finished his education at Kingston University and became an assistant for Mat Collishaw, a prominent member of the Young British Artists alongside Damien Hirst. At the same time, 3D-printing technology was becoming more popular and affordable, which gave him the freedom to combine his technical knowledge and artistic 3D experience.

His POPek series of balloon dogs initially began as a parody of the contemporary American artist Jeff Koons. This quickly evolved into different poses, including yoga dogs, along with urinating and defecating dogs. The collection hit the headlines in 2012, when the London Underground failed to see the funny side and banned his art from the Art Below exhibition at their underground stations for being 'offensive'. 

For his Gone series, Sebastian has brought to life a selection of childhood heroes from the 1939 musical-fantasy film The Wizard of Oz. These haunting, shadowed images indicate his interest in “the dark side”, while symbolising a deep-rooted sense of nostalgia. He explains: “It’s showing our childhood heroes reaching out to us with an extended hand and saying, “Hello, I’m still here, do you remember me?”. Or if those are fading memories, they are saying goodbye.”

The artist’s work is on permanent display at the Singapore Science Centre, and is shown at art fairs across the globe, from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, New York and London. In 2021, four of his large-scale dogs will be on display at Covent Garden in central London. His debut collection, Whatshisname X Castle Fine Art, is available now.

Sebastian says: “I would describe my work as innovative, modern Pop Art. My work fits exactly where we are now in this modern Pop Art world."

Shop the new Whatshisname X Castle Fine Art collection of limited edition prints and sculptures here.

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Inside the world of Whatshisname

Our team took a trip to Sebastian's studio in Tooting, London (watch the video below!) to get the inside scoop on the creative processes for his POPek dogs. The first thing we saw was a huge bookcase full of his balloon dogs in different colours, variations and poses, which he told us is "...a reminder of where I am now, and what is in the pipelines." There was also art by artists he is inspired by. along with books on all aspects of art, advertising, video games and pop culture. 

Next, he took us into an adjoining room, where he pins all of his ideas, inspirations and Pop Art references to a wall to help him decide on an initial design. He also keeps a notebook with sketches from over the years, with each design dated so he knows exactly how long it took from the initial concept to the final sculpture. 

The first step of the production or design process is creating a 3D model. He explains: "Because my background is in graphics, I always start with a 3D model so I can look the design from every angle. The next step is using a 3D printer to create small versions of the design. What looks good on a computer screen doesn’t necessarily translate well for the physical model. 

"Once I’m happy with this, I will create a large-scale 3D printed model. They are printed in various parts, so each part can be moulded and cast in resin. Sometimes I will cast the entire balloon dog as one piece. Depending on its complexity, the design may be divided into many different smaller pieces, which are then assembled. I will play around at this stage, testing the colours and seeing what looks good or not."   

Following this, Sebastian creates a second mould for the balloon dog. This has silicone fibreglass on the outside, and a silicone ‘jacket’ on the inside. He pours resin through the hole, plugs it and uses a rotomoulding technique, which involves slowly rotating it so the liquid sticks to the walls of the mould. As a result, a hollow figure is formed. When he opens the mould, inside is a perfectly-cast model of the sculpture, which is ready for cleaning, sanding, priming and then spraying. A clear gloss is then applied for a lustrous finish.  

If you like reading about our artists' studios, don't miss our regular Studio Sessions feature in Fine Art Collector magazine. Catch up on previous issues here

From the blog

AVAILABLE NOW: Whatshisname X Castle Fine Art

The wait is over! The internationally-collected artist's debut release includes a haunting silhouette of the central characters of The Wizard of Oz, plus a series of posing balloon dogs inspired by Jeff Koons.

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