Bastian M

Curriculum Vitae


M.S. Bastian

M.S. Bastian is an artist who freely moves around in the no-man's-land between art and comics, confusing comic readers with his avant-garde cartoons, and provoking art lovers with quotes from the frivolous world of comics. It was during his student days at the Schüle für Gestaltung in Biel that he was first captured by the work of Thomas Ott and Muñoz/Sampayo. Later, during his stay in New York, he met artists Gary Panter and David Sandlin, who didn't seem bothered by any demarcations between 'high' and 'low' art. From then on, he decided to go his own way, whether in painting, silk screen, comics or sculptures. As one of the first artists recognized and criticized in both art and comics, he plays an important role as pioneer and ambassador. Some of his works are 'Crunch' (1993), 'Päng' (1995), 'Squid' (1997) and 'Squeeze' (1997).

The Swiss M.S. Bastian is one of the few comic artists who dare to attempt to straddle the two worlds of art and comics. With his over-the-top, super-detailed pictures and powerful illustrations, his work is as well represented in galleries and museums as it is at comic festivals. The impulse for his exploration of the comic as an art form came during his studies at the Bieler Schule für Gestaltung when he came across the Swiss comic magazine Strapazin. This was the first German-language publication to be devoted to artistically demanding comic material for adults, in the style of Art Spiegelman’s RAW magazine.
At the same time as M.S. Bastian was publishing his comics in Strapazin and subsequently in various daily newspapers, he was also active in his hometown as an artist and co-founder of the Polstergruppe gallery, where exhibitions and concerts took place, and which also contained a bar. He shaped objects and sculptures out of cardboard, tin, scrap metal and wood and created huge wall paintings. Inspired by the American comic artists Gary Panter and David Sandlin and by painters and graffiti artists such as Keith Haring and Basquiat, M.S. Bastian began to experiment with quotes and fragments from pop culture and the art world, which he employed as an original visual language. Stimulated by the cut-up techniques of William S. Burroughs and the collages of modern art, he manipulates and defamiliarises images and words that he takes from comics, literature, advertising and art.
Päng! (Bang!) is the name of one such album and it’s with just that sort of explosive energy that M.S. Bastian adapted Bukowski’s words by cutting them up, putting them together in new ways or expanding them with his own words. In his following works, Squeeze (1997) and Peep Trash Bubbles (2000), he exploded the stifling panels of a comic, giving free rein to his excessive interpretations of the comic icons Mickey Mouse, Tintin, Bart Simpson and Jimbo. Once they’re set free, they shake up the whole world of comics, leaving complete chaos in their wake. Or they pop in to visit their favourite friend, M.S. Bastian’s own character, the friendly ‘Pulp’ (2004).
M.S. Bastian’s comics are not so much based on a plot as on individual scenes and images that originate in a familiar system of signs, forming a magnificent tableau that requires interpretation.
He finds complete freedom in his artistic endeavours, documented in the wonderful catalogues CoMIXart (1996), It’s a wonderful world (2001) and 100 Ansichten von Bastropolis (2007), as well as in the magazine Päng 2 (2008, Edition Fästing Plockare), which he produced in collaboration with Isaebelle L.
M.S. Bastian provocatively crosses boundaries, he provokes and creates friction between the contradictions and shared features of art and comics. His work is like a subversive counter-initiative, outside official culture, accepting no limits. So it was just a question of time before he took his installations and ventured into the three-dimensional space, with the legendary Bastian Bar.
Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
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March 2005