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 brand new collection!
March 2023 saw Whatshisname take his artwork to new heights as we launched his first exhibition into space! The interactive exhibition featured a selection of new and acclaimed pieces that celebrate the breadth of the boundary pushing artist - including balloon dog sculptures from his widely celebrated ‘POPek’ collection, intergalactic nostalgic pieces from his ‘Gone’ collection, and a breakdancing astronaut were all showcased amongst the stars to create this unique retrospective! Watch the out-of-this-world exhibition take off below!
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, including Mickey Mouse, Lisa Simpson, Winnie-the-Pooh and Buzz Lightyear. 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.”
Both a thought-provoking conversation piece and a symbol of the turbulent lives we live in, his new 'Riot of Liberty' sculpture draws upon the protests that took place across the USA, Hong Kong and Chile between 2019 and 2020. The pose of the Statue of Liberty is deliberately reminiscent of Banksy’s famous ‘Flower Thrower’ artwork (also known as ‘Love in the Air’), which was created in Bethlehem to advocate for peace.
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 were on display at Covent Garden in central London, raising £1,160 for the Blue Cross pet charity. The installation has currently taken over the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford, where you can help us to donate £1 by adding a post to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #castle4bluecross.
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."
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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.
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