For London-based artist and designer Whatshisname, art is “something he cannot not do.” This sense of inescapability defines most of his works, as viewers are immediately caught in an inevitable process of recognition and interpretation. His latest work – POPek The Squatting Balloon Dog statue – embodies his intention to break the ordinary and underline necessary acts of subversion, manifest both at the level of creation and reception.
The artist uses visual intertextuality as a creative zone, touching clearly on Jeff Koons´ iconic balloon dogs, in an attempt to further challenge the commonplace as a mode of understanding art and ourselves in contemporaneity. Whatshisname employs an interplay of whimsy and thoughtfulness, inviting a reconstruction of the very act of seeing contemporary art.
Elena Stanciu: Please tell me a about your practice? Who are you? Whatsyourname?
Whatshisname: I work in a small one man studio. Most of the time I work alone, which gives me great focus and helps with generating creative ideas. My mission is to celebrate an alternative to an ordinary; I strive to create work that contradicts common popular design.
ES: When did you start making art? Why?
W: I think the questions is: why didn't I stop making art? I believe that everyone is born creative and an artist. I take great pleasure in watching my two daughters (aged four and two) express themselves via play, drawing, dance, and by creating strange pieces using household items. For them, there is no right or wrong in what they make. Rigid school systems often smother this creative flow, but I always had trouble focusing in school, so I had an alternative, creative way of engaging. I guess I kept it.
ES: How did you come to think of POPek the Squatting Balloon Dog? I can´t help thinking it is a metaphor for something. Is it?
W: The balloon dog statue popularised by Jeff Koons is a great pop art piece which used to be viewed as new and unordinary. Today viewers are very familiar with it and therefore it became the typical example of pop art. I wanted to refresh this and "blow" new life into it. I suppose POPek reminds us that the balloon dog trope, like many other popular ideas and forms, has not been exhausted, and there is always an alternative approach to the subject.
ES: Can you elaborate on Jeff Koons' influence on your work?
W: I am a huge fan of Jeff Koons' work, his creativity, and the way he uses contradiction and exaggeration; I'm fascinated by his play with materials and scale, always challenging expectations.
ES: I know your art is a take on the ordinary. Can you tell me a little more about the artistic relationship you have with the mundane, the common, the normal?
W: It's difficult to avoid the mundane and the ordinary when the world is moving so fast; what´s new today, will be common tomorrow. I just try to make life more interesting by introducing an alternative approach to the common.
ES: As both a designer and a visual artist, how do you think of functionality as a feature of art? Do you think of art as primarily necessary? Is it functional? Or do you rather seek some sort of aesthetic purity?
W: I believe that the purpose of art is to wash off the monotony of everyday life, to refresh it, and trigger lateral thinking. I think art stimulates our minds in unconventional ways, which affect our mood and consciousness, as well as the unconscious ways we approach our surroundings. In this sense, I would say art is functional.
Words: Elena Stanciu