If you’ve been to The Cathay recently, you may have noticed a few gigantic plastic sculptures resembling a familiar childhood figure: balloon dogs. These sculptures aren’t new – in fact, it’s a signature work of artist Sebastian Burdon.
If you’re not familiar with his name, it’s because he also goes by “Whatshisname”, which was inspired by Green Day’s song “Whatshername” (and by the fact that he often has trouble remembering other artists’ names).
More than just balloon dogs, Whatshisname is also known for his other mediums like resin, canvas, and fibreglass. The subject of his art is often parodies of familiar pop culture icons like The Simpsons and Disney characters.
Sebastian is part of a group of “punk artists” who are sought after not only for their own art, but also for collaborations with other artists or big brand names. One such artist is Ron English, who creates art with almost any medium, from graffiti to billboard and toys, and has inspired plenty of a newer generation of artists like Sebastian.
Artists are often influenced by the world in which they live in and for Sebastian, and that’s where the balloon dog came into the picture – it was ubiquitous, yet familiar. “When I was making statues, I needed to make something simple,” says Burdon. He needed them to work with a single colour, with simple shapes and few details. “The balloon dog fit the bill perfectly since it was already highly regarded and it was a great canvas for creativity.”
Because he likes to create art that makes him laugh or feel good, he came up with the balloon dogs in various poses – from pooping to peeing, and even humping. “I have two dogs, so they were good research material,” he laughs.
“It was the most noxious thing to do,” he claims, when asked about why his favourite is the pooping dog (called POPek), which also happen to be a favourite among his collectors. A look through vinyl toy and auction sites reveals that the POPek is indeed sought after, based on its pricing alone (about US$700 on an auction site for an 8″ figure). Homegrown label Might Jaxx produces a lot of Sebastian’s balloon dog works, and they sell out almost instantaneously after release.
It’s also not uncommon to have two or more artists collaborating with each other to bring out their own distinctive styles. In Sebastian’s case, he’s worked with fellow artist Jason Freeny who’s famous for his dissected/flayed look that reveal skeletons and innards of characters like Mickey Mouse or Elmo of Sesame Street.
While POPek is his signature work, Sebastian’s upcoming project is a departure from the norm – at a sneak peek during Culture Cartel, he revealed that he was working on screen prints and statues of astronauts doing dance poses like break dancing, disco, and ballet. Apparently it was his daughter’s interest in Neil Armstrong that influenced his thinking.
If you’re a toy collector, or want to collect Sebastian’s works, you may be interested to know that one of his latest POPek creations is made from iron. If you’re looking for a limited edition toy, this is it. The reason? He hates working with the material. “It’s very unforgiving,” he says, “and any mistake you make, it’s in the bin. Unlike resin or fibreglass where you can fill holes or sandpaper them out, you can’t do it with iron.” And when he says he’ll never work with that medium again, you know it’s going to be very limited.
You can check out Mighty Jaxx for info on some of Sebastian’s works.