Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Art Space Talk: Bask

Originally hailing from Czechoslovakia, Ales "Bask" Hostomsky is a street artist who utilizes various mediums to bring forth socially and politically-aware messages. Bask, whose family fled Czechoslovakia as political exiles in 1984, draws from the iconic, subversive imagery of advertising and propaganda. Bask has been noted as being one of the top contemporary post-graffiti writers-- having been categorized with the same cultural importance as D-Face, Buff Monster, Swoon, Faile, Above, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy.

Brian Sherwin: Bask, you are originally from Czechoslovakia. Upon moving to the States with your family you observed the similarities between the communistic iconic propaganda from your youth and the consumer advertising you found in America during your teen years. Can you go into further detail about this relation and how it made an impact on your artistic direction?

Bask: When we moved here in 1984, I was only eight years old so I didn't make the connection until I was much older. But coming from a political system which was very specific on how it delivered its messages and propaganda to its people, it wasn't hard to compare that to the way add agencies and corporations target it's consumer audience. Coming to this conclusion I started to play with icons and the power they held over people not to mention myself.
It's a Fine Line Between a Social Drinker and A Drunk

BS: May I ask why you decided to go by the moniker Bask? Your real name is Ales Hostomsky, correct?

Bask: The alias Bask came at the end of a line of tags I was doing in my teens. I wrote Argus, Ayl, among others and eventually I started to put up Bask when I was seventeen. There isn't a deep story behind the name. I think I just liked how the letters came together. Eventually everybody just called me Bask rather then Ales (pronounced Alesh) and I just rolled with it. Strangely enough, I relate to the name Bask more then Ales these days. Does that make me a schizophrenic, hahaha!

BS: Bask, have you observed any other connections between communism and the American lifestyle?

Bask: Not really. It's actually quit opposite in regards to lifestyle. In an American or western lifestyle you have an abundance of everything where as in an communist system there is a shortage. In America, you're encouraged to make more money, get more credit cards and spend it all. Back in my home country, you bought mostly just what you or your family needed, really needed, not like "need" an XBOX or something.

Installation: Killer Bees

BS: Bask, tell us about your influences. Have you been influenced by other artists? Art movements?

Bask: My influences range quite a bit. It's not just art or other artists for that matter. It changes and moves daily. I could get inspired by a song one day and a fight with my girlfriend the next. I never know when or what it will be, I just know it always comes and goes. But if I was to name a few artists I like, it would be Tes One, Barry Mcgee, Phil Frost, Derek Hess, Sarah Gail Hutcherson, The Seventh Letter Crew among countless others.

Harvey's Cafe

BS: Bask, your work is known for having an "anti-iconic" twist. Sometimes your work offers a satirical worldview... other times there is a strong focus on conveying dark emotion. These pieces often reveal a sense of social and industrial decay-- can you go into further detail about the message you are creating with your art and the social implications that you capture?

Bask: Well, to answer that, I'll have to explain my process a little. I create most of my work on found object like panels and boards I salvage from alleys and dumpsters. Things that people find worthless and frankly a burden to deal with. Most of the things I pick up are larger then what a garbage company likes to deal with. I take one of these panel and layer it with pop imagery, child like scribbles or whatever else it calls for depending on the theme of the work. Finally I clear coat and display it in a museum or gallery. This is how the paintings are born. I have a huge respect for this process and try to accentuate the fact that the painting originated from something that was no longer wanted. Top that off with a social issue or emotion I'm trying to convey visually and the rest just happens naturally. I found if I paint on a new canvas with new brushes my work feels empty and soulless. but if it was born out of something I find in an alley then it enters the process with already having a rich history.
Installation for 2007 Bumbershoot, Seattle, WA.

BS: Bask, your work is richly textured-- you utilize a technique of multi-layered applications. Can you go into further detail about your artistic process. How do you start a piece and when do you know that it is done?

Bask: Well I think my last answer covered most of this question. But how do I know when a painting is finished? I'm not really sure, I guess when I stop working on it. I once heard something to the effect of "a painting I'd never finished, just abandoned" I kind of agree with that. I look at some of my older work and every time I see something I could add or take away from it.
BS: The theme of destruction is obvious in your art-- both in how they are created and the message they contain. However, do you leave room for hope? Or do you see the current socio-political climate as one that will only result in peril... doom?

Bask: I'm definitely an optimist. Actually a lot of my work pokes fun at the elements around us, good or bad. Unfortunately, most good art comes from struggle and a sense helplessness-- as if your only voice to be heard is through your art. The current state of affairs lends itself to the arts pretty well.

BS: Bask, your imagery has appeared in countless publications in both advertising and editorial capacities. Do you ever fear that your work will become the very issue that you rally against? Are you concerned that your work may lose meaning due to advertisement? Are you concerned that your work may end up being seen as just another commercial message? Would you embrace that form of irony?

Bask: I do everything in my power to prevent my work to be viewed in that manner. I turn down a lot of work because I choose not to do commercial work unless I get final approval on how my work is used. It's hard sometimes to turn down good paying gigs, but I look at the big picture, and a few bucks can't buy my integrity. But, with that said, in today's art arena, you have to make yourself known so promotion and advertising comes with the turf. The difference is on what you're addressing and as an artist, what you lend your art to advertise. Is it a new pair of kicks for Nike or a series of new paintings you're displaying at your next show.

Kids Bomb the Suburbs Today

Installation detail: Kids Bomb the Suburbs Today

BS: Bask, your art has been shown at the Florida International Museum as well as the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art-- which also has your work in it’s permanent collection. You have shown in Baltimore, Detroit, Miami and Tampa. Where can our readers view your work at this time? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?

Bask: At this time my work can be viewed at the Public Trust in Dallas Texas, Vitale Gallery in Saint Petersburg Florida, Foundation One Gallery in Atlanta, CPOP Gallery in Detroit, and other galleries in the near future. For anyone wanting to find out more about my current shows or what I have coming up, go to www.myspace.com/BaskInYourThoughtcrimes.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world?

Bask: No, I think I'm good. Thanks for the great questions!
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Bask. Feel free to view my other interviews by clicking on the following link: www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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