His heart is 100
% in comics - M.S
comic artist, painter and poet
Comic fans are probably
familiar with M.S. Bastian. His comic experimentations and explorations
have been published around the world. He has exhibited from New York to
Paris. His installations and graphic acrobatics transcend the
boundaries of classic comic narration and set new milestones in the
Ninth art. We caught up with him at the Berliner Comicfestival, where
he was exhibiting together with some other Swiss artists. He presented
his installation “Bastian bar”, a tavern of horror and absurdity. Here
is what he had to say about comics, art, life and death…
1993), Schokoriegel (Berlin, 1994), Baluba (Paris, 1995), Päng
(Zürich, 1995), Krampitz Rattenherz (Berlin, 1995), Comix Art
Monographie - M.S. Bastian (Bern, 1996), Squid (Marseille, 1997),
Squeeze (Zürich, 1997), Peep Trash Bubbles (Marseille, 2000), It's
a wonderful world (Bern, 2001)
hardly say your work is typical comic art. Your work is somewhere
between painting and…images placed one next to another, without any
linear stories. How do you feel you fit into the comic universe?
I started creating art
ago. At first I was really interested in painting. I went to art
school, making paintings, sculptures, stuff like that. I was also
interested in drawing and once a teacher asked me, why I don't try to
draw something like a comic, make an illustration with ten or fifteen
pictures. So I made a double-paged comic. Then another friend told me
that he knew some people in Zurich who are making a magazine called
Strapazin and that I should try to send them something and they might
like it. At that time I didn't know anything about the comic scene. But
I sent the comic to Strapazin and for the first time published a
double-paged comic story. At that time I was more into classic comics.
After that I published everywhere, in fanzines and magazines in France
and in Germany. What I am doing now is trying to reach the limits of
comics. The borderline could perhaps be like the comic bar I made here.
Three-dimensional comics and an abstract story resembling a cut-out
system. Taking things from all over, words, logos, poetry or pictures.
And when I mix it all, that's my comic story. That's what I'm searching
being bombarded with meanings and symbols and images. Is your work a
reaction to the times we are living in or is it a step back, expressing
yourself with these same images?
Is there's a
higher meaning behind your drawings
or are they just a way of expressing yourself?
In a way I'm confused in
world, like many other people, especially in the comic scene, and I'm
just trying to find myself. To make a system around me. It's like a
search, trying to find what's important for me. That's why I have this
collection of all these different stuff around me. I make sketchbooks,
and I search for what's important for me. At any moment you can spot
something or read something that is important. Especially me, since I
travel a lot. So I try to make a system in order to find myself. In a
way it's a romantic attempt to find my world. It's an endeavour that
never really works. Especially the bar here inside…
Is it more of a
therapeutically system for you ?
I would not say therapy.
Therapy would be more esoteric in style. For me it's.. it could be also
called a conceptional system.
say they have a beginning and an end or are it always open?
I started with the
stories and I always felt a connection with the writer. The author is
always open, different, and so at that time I made really clear
stories. Classical short stories. I started with those. After that I
made my own texts. A little bit more abstract. I also took some texts
from Jim Morrison. And it became more and more abstract and really more
like…I can't really find a word in English for it.
Do you start
with a definite idea in mind or do you just do whatever comes out of
What I try to do…in the
world I exhibit in museums and galleries and in addition to that I'm
also active in the comic scene. I see no difference between those two
scenes. But the reality is that they are two totally different scenes.
Artists are all about the money and gallery business, status and when
you are an artist you are always thinking in the back of your mind:
will this bring me money? The comic scene is completely different. It's
a subculture and it's often oppositional…art is not always
You think you
successful in that art world as well?
I'm completely confused
it. Right now I'm at a comic festival. Next week I'll be in a museum in
Germany. It's a complicated question. But I should say that my heart is
100% in comics. But I couldn't make just comics. Like I told you, it's
a search for the borderline. I also made a phantom train installation.
A huge one, you could go inside. It was like a comic. You walked
through and in a way you walked through like you walk through a book by
reading. In the last exhibition I made a huge wall higher than 25
meters with 400 paintings. It was an art exhibition. Everybody had his
or her art; I had a comic.
Do they know
work as a comic artist in the art world?
They know, but they
because they see it in my work, not because they read comics or buy
Stripburger. Some of my artist friends were here today at the Bastian
bar. But it's different. For example, you could never drink beer at a
museum. I'm really the only artist in the art world that has beer on
You travel a
Around the whole world almost. You brought a lot of sketchbooks from
your travels. What's the purpose of an artist making a sketchbook?
I cannot say what it
general, only for my self. There are two worlds. One is the world of
isolation at home in my workspace, where I work with my music and try
not to be influenced by the outside world. And I just work like crazy.
And the other world is when I go out and meet people or travel. That's
when I take ideas into my head. The sketchbook is like a catalyst. I
take things in and the output is at home. The sketches are always the
best work. The Peeptrash bubbles album you reviewed in Stripburger (#
34) is also from a sketchbook. I like to work with the sketchbook, but
I don't know what will come out. The wall with 400 painting I told you
about. It used only reproductions from a sketchbook. Only black and
For the last
we always ask who has influenced your work?
Gary Panther and Atak,
Kennedys, Charles Bukowsky, William Boroughs, moviemaker Altman.