Studio Visit - interview with Nicholas Bastin
Through portals and fictional action figure motifs Bastin explores the intersection between reality and imagined worlds, parallel universes and re-imagined merchandise.
He examines the human condition through the action figure, an item he views as an extension of a jewellery object, just as collectible, personal and physical. Bastin’s hand carved and cast objects look deceptively familiar, often disguising the amount of technical mastery employed and the handmade qualities inherent in making jewellery and objects.
In this video Bastin expresses the allure of material plasticity, it’s ability to transform and transmute, and his fascination with action figures as mass-produced off shoots of commercial narratives.
NICHOLAS BASTIN: I am a gold and silver smith. I studied gold and silversmithing at RMIT and that forms the philosophy of my making, and of the type of work that I do. I make, generally, jewellery. But I also make object based work as well. And the materials that I use predominantly are resin or material that have a plasticity so they might be found objects but also wood and precious metals as well especially in terms of the findings and the broach fittings etc.
From studying undergrad I was always drawn to found objects and plastic materials, and I think that is possibly due to my fascination with the action figure. Or that particular genre of toy that is a mass-produced commercial product that is an offshoot from a narrative. And I'm also interested in contemporary mythologies and the way that character archetypes keep reappearing in science fiction and fantasy narratives. Because I am interested mythology and the toys that come from that and also the materials that these toys are made from, in terms of generally plastic, I see a preciousness.
I rarely use found objects these days. I tend to make the original object or the model. That can be made from all sorts of things and generally carved from wood. But I may use some other found objects connected with that. And so I'll make this model which I make a mold from. And then I'll pour the resin into that. And then there'll be other attachments like I might fabricate other components out of metal that attached to that. Or, if its a broach for example, I'll make broach fittings out of silver, generally, to fit on the back of those.
Because I make objects that are jewellery and jewellery has to generally have a function to be wearable, it doesn't mean that it’s always an everyday wearability too. Some of the works I make might almost pretend to be a jewellery piece, but I may make them as if they are an artefact that was once a jewellery piece that is now looked at more as a sculptural work that should be in a museum.
My favourite museum is the Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo, Japan. I've been to Japan about four or five times now and I keep going back to Japan as a reference. I've always been intrigued by both their contemporary popular culture, but also the history, particularly in terms of craft and objects. The Tokyo National Museum has a fantastic collection but my favourite is the netsuke collection.
Well I guess the thing with netsuke is the incredible attention to detail with these objects and also the scale because they are jewellery scale and even toy scale as well so even though they weren't intended to be toys. I see connections between contemporary plastic toys and objects such as this. And this helps to inform my work and I try to make objects that are a fusion of both. So they’re made from plastic and more contemporary materials but there’s an approach in terms of the making that is very much, using my gold and silver skills, still being very much a craftsman in a conventional sense.
I don't think I work in a linear way. I think I work in more of a cyclic way. So that I might be halfway through one work and I'll leave that and start another work, and then they will start to inform each other. So, as time progresses, there might not look like there’s much there but all of a sudden a body of work will evolve because they're all kind of connected in some way. And some other works may not be ready so they might be packed away in a box and I'll have things that I've been working on for years that I might stop and the a couple of years later I'll come back and all of a sudden I've worked out what it is that I have to do to finish that work.
So I don't have a problem with that because, even though my work is moving, there are certain themes and ideas that I keep coming back to again and again and it's about exploring those in new ways but also finding an answer that I didn't have a couple of years ago when I first made the piece.