We dive into some of the lesser known facts about contemporary artist Whatshisname!
Although his nickname is ingenious, whatshisname does in fact have a name: Sebastian Burdon!
Sebastian chose the moniker “Whatshisname” because he found it difficult to remember other artists' names, and was inspired by Green Day’s song “Whatshername.” He said: “I just love the work of so many artists but when I refer to them I can never remember their names. So it’s only fair that that’s how I’m remembered.”
Sebastian was born in eastern Poland in 1982.
He created his first artwork at the age of 7! He created what is now known as pixel art with the iconic Atari 130 XE, building his digital art pixel by pixel using the text editor.
He moved to London in 2006 and worked as an art assistant for many British artists, including Mat Collishaw before pursuing a full time career as a professional artist. One of his first visits to London, a school holiday trip in 1997, opened his eyes to a realm of new concepts, influences, and iconography. On the question of how assisting other artists helped his own practice, he said: “By watching other artists work, I had an exclusive sneak peek into their design processes and creative explorations. I could observe their approach to the new project as well as aesthetics and respect for the medium in which they work. I also used this opportunity to share my own ideas and receive mentorship which was crucial at the early start of my creative journey.”
He’s exhibited internationally in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
His artwork has been seen across various platforms: Affordable art fair, Artsy, Arts in the city, BBC lifestyle, Comedy central, Design milk, fubix, London art fair, and Scope art show.
His collection POPek initially began as a parody of contemporary artist Jeff Koons, but shortly thereafter grew into an series of dogs defecating, urinating, in yoga poses, or Happy POPek who looks ahead at a smaller balloon. He observed his two dogs, noting they were “good research material,” but he mostly “needed to make something simple” when creating his statues. He stated: “The balloon dog fit the bill perfectly since it was already highly regarded and it was a great canvas for creativity.” On the connections with Jeff Koons,Sebastian has said: “I made sure I reached out when I was about to release them [POPek collection], so to speak, so he’s aware. I’ve never had a response, but I assume he’s ok with it. In my case, the idea is transformative, not derivative, so I think that’s ok. I’m not trying to be controversial, I just want my collectors to smile and feel happy when looking at my art.”
Despite his intention to not be controversial, his artwork was banned from the London Underground! In 2012, after releasing his POPek collection of balloon dogs, the Transportation for London (TfL) deemed them “offensive” and would not display his art at underground stations.
When asked about how he would describe art, whatshisname said: “The art that I make can only be described as joyful pop art. I draw influences from current mass culture, my childhood and TV programs I used to watch as a kid. My art challenges traditional fine art by bringing an element of fun and creativity.” Additionally, he has said: “I find joy in seeing things differently. My work is about celebrating an alternative to the ordinary.”