Art Gene, Bath Street, Barrow-in-Furness,
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
Bastik is an artist, thinker & occasional poet. Sometimes described as a radical, he is certainly a passionate generalist who advocates knowing a little about a lot. He sees knowledge of the complex connections between things through time played out in our landscapes as a driving force for sustainable change.
“Our whole environment can be a work of art – in theory at least; yet with nature, art, industry & people as we all know, the true value lies beyond the aesthetic…”
His early works included site specific commissioned sculpture which led him to question and test the role of artists in the social, natural and built environment. He has a tendency to see ‘art’ as the thing artists do whilst they are waiting for something to happen – perhaps born out of a frustration – or waiting to be included in the debate.
“I can remember when I first came to Barrow as a recent graduate in 1992 to undertake a year residency and immediately becoming aware that I was not prepared for the fact that most people never think about art – it just is n’t within their frame of reference – to some extent this shook my belief after years learning to worship in the church of art… and yet it galvanised my resolve to try and find a role, a purpose and relevance within a wider society. Art mostly talks to itself – and has more recently been put to the service of passive entertainment more than enlightenment. If artists are only talking to those who are already listening, usually each other, why do we make all this stuff?”
“I believe it is important to recognise that artists have at least as much potential to be rigid as pretty much everyone else. Artists can all too easily become attached to and defined by their identity as ‘an artist’ and approved, orthodox, even traditional notions of artistic practice- so much so that it becomes difficult to see the possibilities which lie elsewhere and nearby but outside of what can be a rather narrow, often vain, frame of reference: The art world; ones place in it or out of it… too often artists cling rigidly to a predefined even historical notion of artistic practice; it can become a life raft rather than an ocean in which to swim.”
‘My Bag’ was the origin of Art Gene’s research remit, thoughts and connections quickly scrawled on each side of an available piece of paper lying in the artist’s studio. Much of this thinking is embodied in Bastik’s discussion paper Re-Visioning Utopia and other writing. (read here)
Between drawing and sculpture: The Weight of History is Crushing Me in My Bed has an elemental presence which belies the humour of its title, without which the work would seem to be much less about something than to simply be something. There is, however, a mysterious alchemy here. The work carries a warning as it has been known to discharge a powerful static electric shock when touched – bringing a new poignancy to the often used phrase “do not touch the artwork”
As we all know, graphite and diamond are chemically the same and herein lies a raft of possible comparative metaphors that it is tempting to attach to the work – ones relating to social class, colour, heavy industry – or more literally thoughts around the ‘value’ of graphite (the raw material and that of the art made with it) over that of diamonds – let alone black ones?
Graphite is also a very effective lubricant. This work is certainly slippery in evading a single reading.
‘If Invention did not exist God would be Necessary’ responds to Voltaire’s famous statement: “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him”
Through a self-portrait as Jesus, the artist opens up a consideration of choice in belief: belief in the power of Man – the power of God? Science or Religion?… and with reference to Voltaire the relationship between invention and necessity.
The piece featured in ‘International Enquirer’ curated by Paul Moss for Art Gene in 2006 as a life size billboard poster pasted to the gallery wall (see below) and later also formed the basis of a video work ‘Love Everlasting’ 2006.
‘A Machine for Watching Time Passing Pointlessly’, an oil painting of a computer-screen ‘wait cursor’ symbol revolves on a cement mixer. As this rather dangerous and even menacing work spins beside the viewer on a labouring mixer the pattern of brush stroked ‘pixels’ glint and mesmerise.
“I liked the way the arrows point or ‘stare’ only at each other in and endless closed centrifugal loop, as if indicating something important yet invisible might lie between them in the eye of the storm” SB
“I enjoyed the irony of painting a digital image: but not the laborious process which seemed worse than waiting for something to happen”
In ‘Drawing for A Machine for Watching Time Passing Pointlessly’ a diagrammatic narrative evolves suggesting a symbolic inner world resembling clouds or thought bubbles bereft of text whose meaning is multiplicit, hidden yet in some sense revealed.
“They remind me of sealed envelopes and the notion that there is always more in a closed package than an open one”
In ‘Three Wishes’,three objects resembling bombs, fishing floats or oversized magicians wands Bastik explores the relationship between creativity and destruction.
The working title for this piece was; ‘something to do with your friends on a rainy afternoon: Making a Bomb in your back bedroom’…The work references readily available information and through its title links the ‘creativity’ in bomb and art making to desire and fundamentalism. It may also, given the location of the artist‘s studio be seen to ask questions of Barrow’s long history of weapons production and the exhaustive innovation which has been applied to it by Barnes Wallis, Neville Shute and many others.
The following passage is comprised of extracts from one of several recent pieces of Stuart’s writing. The full version and other pieces can be found in our Re-Visioning Utopia section. The piece was written following his invitation to attend, as a panelist, the Art Initiative Organisations Conference held by BankArt1929 in Yokohama, Japan 2009. Nicholson and Bastik have since returned from a more recent invitation to speak at the Future Cities Conference held by BankArt1929 as part of the 2011 Yokohama Triennial.
From Yokohama with Love…
The “We need Creative…Er… Things!”… phenomena is alive and well in seats of power across the world, it seems, but do they really know what they are asking for?
The next stage in human evolution (if there is to be one) is, I believe, not about finding creative ways to maintain the status quo. It is about making creativity ubiquitous, powerful, purposeful and ultimately influential in that it should change the why and way we live.
How tough has it got to be out there in the seats of power for ‘them’ to be asking ‘artists’ to help them out? And – in the absence of any genuine feeling on my part that there is a ‘we’ another question
“Who are the powerful ones in this situation – them or us?”
We’ve had cathedrals and castles, palaces for monarchs and to industry, skyscrapers and the recent art-power structures which mimic the aspirations of religious leaders, industrialists and financiers. Buildings which dominate and marginalise the art which they are ‘intended’ to celebrate driven by public and private finance and a desire to meet the ‘needs’ and reap rewards from an essentially passive consumer. These Disneyland entertainment buildings driven by coffee shops and glossy book sales authenticate themselves and skip over and lessen any probable integrity possessed or reflected within the artwork…
…I believe the role of the artist has always been to demonstrate [risk taking] that courage to society albeit from the fringes – to offer an alternative viewpoint or a fresh perspective. It seems to me that we must now fight for a place at the top table in order to effect change through example.
For some years now working in a place which is geographically and culturally outside of ‘the art world’ I have recognised that it is not really artists work which is important in a wider conception of society or humanity but rather their differentness or otherness – a refusal or inability to ‘fit in’.
The best ‘art’ is, I suggest, merely the most allowable manifestation of our true value – the by-product of lives lived on the fringes of societies:… we have failed to be comfortable – to different degrees. I contend therefore that in some very important sense the best artists are the least ‘successful’ ones – those most challenged and challenging.
It seems to me that society has ‘charged’ (albeit unknowingly) artists (amongst others) with carrying humanities survival mechanism. We are an essentially untapped ‘antibody’ which has been lying substantially dormant within society – This has I feel been felt variously as a slight irritation – a thorn in the side, our collective conscience – that niggling feeling that won’t go away – but we are also seen as the embodiment of freedom -? albeit mostly misunderstood.
Freedom like power comes in a package with responsibility…
Read and download Thoughts I’ve been having with myself.
‘Adam & God Creating’ is part of an on-going series of playful photographic and video works Bastik has made in recent years which are incidental and diaristic yet have a deeper resonance in search of the nature of being, and poetic truths.
‘Adam & God Creating’ is a thematic re-working of part of Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel fresco depicting ‘God creating Adam’. The relationship between creator and created here, however, only exists in a reflection. There is a suggestion the creator and created may be one and the same or mere narcissistic projections of each other. The bolt of lightening emanating from the finger of God in Michelangelo’s work is reduced to a faint orange glow at the end of a hand rolled cigarette further grounding the piece and Bastik’s enquiry within an apparently mundane reality.
“The vernacular phrase ‘stop creating’ meaning stop making a fuss or being argumentative always makes me smile when looking at this piece” SB
Originally developed as concept signage for a business park these works have continued to inform more recent projects including the upper section of the Roker Pods currently being manufactured (see Nicholson Bastik page). In this archive print they are displayed like a collection of insects in a cabinet of curiosities such as that Art Gene are currently making for the Ship Inn on Piel Island as part of a wider alternative visitor centre project.
“A town can be a work of art – in theory at least – much as a person may be – each have been amongst art’s most common subjects; yet with towns, art and people, as we all know, the true value lies beyond the aesthetic”.
Extract from Bastik’s Re-Visioning Utopia, Charrette Synopsis, read more here
“Artists have always been inspired by the social natural and built environments from which our towns, cities and landscapes are made – What will happen when we turn our attention to the creation of towns. Art Gene believes we may begin to develop a new sustainable vernacularism.”
Video. Balloon trapped on fence, cliff top north of South Walney Nature Reserve
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
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