Art Scout: Belle Bassin’s Work Floats Between Fantasy and Reality, Sculpture and Performance
Meet the Melbourne artist inspired by surreal dreams and visions.
Belle Bassin in her studio. All photography by Katherine Gillespie
Welcome to our new column Art Scout, where we profile Australia's creative up-and-comers.
For a long time, it didn’t occur to Belle Bassin that art could become a career. The Melbourne-based artist spent her late teens and early twenties traveling the globe and working odd jobs, living for extended periods in China, the United States, and Europe. But when the epiphany struck, she returned to Australia and started a Fine Art, Drawing degree at the Victorian College of the Arts.
“It even didn’t occur to me for a long time that people needed careers,” she tells The Creators Project. “As I traveled I always drew in journals, but I didn’t have this knowledge that people existed as full time artists. As soon as someone told me about that, I thought, ‘Okay, great! I’ll do it!’” After completing her degree, Bassin won a travel scholarship to the Middle East. She has continued to seek out overseas residencies ever since, despite the birth of her daughter in 2014 encouraging her to linger closer to home for a while. For now, her roots are planted in Melbourne as she finishes her Master of Fine Art at Monash University.
A love of travel, interest in twentieth century European dadaism and surrealism, and an intrinsic sense of spirituality, dreams, and visions have all influenced Bassin’s practice. Her body of work I Can Eat Glass, It Doesn’t Hurt Me (2016) was two and a half years in the making, and was recently unveiled at Heide Museum of Modern Art. A combination of sculpture, drawing and dance, she says it was inspired by “a vision a long time ago of how amazing it would be if patterns and forms were moving around human bodies.” I Can Eat Glass features giant kimono-like sculptures made from fabric and wood that attach to contemporary dancers, whose bodies are “used like textures, so when they all stand together it becomes a giant moving painting.” It exists in the space between the fantasy of human flight and the reality of gravity. “I have a spiritualist process to my work,” Bassin says. “These are all visions that I’ve had, of things moving in a fantastic way.”
This influence within Bassin’s work finds itself a little at odds with much of the Melbourne art scene. "We have a thorough critical approach, which can be sometimes mistakenly swapped for an unthorough skepticism in the way we talk about art,” she says.
As she finishes studying, Bassin is looking to the future. She’s applying for international studio residencies, and hopes to fit in more travel before her daughter is old enough to go to school. Working as an artist after becoming a mother has changed her perspective on gender; she’s started noticing discrepancies between how men and women artists are treated. “I never really thought when I was younger that gender made a difference. But now, I can definitely see the advantages men have; there seems to be a broader acceptance of the potential of their artistic practices, whereas I feel that female artists more often have to create their own opportunities and demonstrate themselves before they are taken seriously.”
Bassin’s video installation It's Easier To Look At Your Skin (2013) is the focal point of Heide's current Dancing Umbrellas: An Exhibition of Movement and Light exhibition, which is on show until June 5. Filmed in Paris, the video features the artist traipsing around the city’s subway system with her entire body covered in colourful umbrellas.