Cool Hunter Predictions: Belle Bassin - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

This profile appeared in the "Cool Hunter Predictions" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2009"

Having only completed her Bachelor of Drawing at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2007, Belle Bassin is already attracting considerable curatorial and critical interest. Her obsessions are clearly of the time.

Coalescing obsessive interests in mythology, science fiction, conspiracy theories and the occult, she seems to have captured the zeitgeist in her fastidiously rendered drawings and altar-like assemblages. To date the works have portrayed strange portals rendered in what, to a fevered imagination, might appear to be human bone.

Despite the fact that these works seem very much of their time, they are also timeless. Bassin trawls the planet for the arcane worlds of forgotten belief systems and baroque ritual, searching for belief bordering on derangement.

Clearly, religion and obsessive belief inform Bassin’s work, a fact that may have initiated her yearning for extremes. “I have always searched for alternative belief structures,” she says. “I have travelled extensively in search of Paganist cultures, visiting ashrams, monasteries and what could be perceived as cults.

“I like tackling things I find scary. Recently I travelled to the Middle East and since then I have begun examining Judo-Christian and Islamic religions, because I find these the most terrifying.”

Bassin blends this obsession with religiosity with a rich cocktail of science fiction, conspiracy theories and the occult, interests that are more often associated with male-dominated genres such as death metal, to which she brings a somewhat feminine touch. “I don’t specifically focus on the feminine,” she says. “I work a lot with portholes and gateways, which can easily be perceived as vaginal,” she says.

“I don’t watch TV or sci-fi movies, but sci-fi movies often draw on the same research and twist new stories out of mythologies and creationist stories, so the outcome is sometimes similar. I’ll often watch the relevant sci-fi movie as pointed out by colleagues, but after the body of work is complete so I’m not swayed by a popular understanding.”

Indeed, Bassin eschews specific references to popular culture, although she does acknowledge some interest in the infamous English occultist Aleister Crowley.

“I sometimes look to people like Crowley to look at his research. I find this sort of work interesting, but see it as a secondary source. I prefer to focus on my own dabblings into the occult and travel to locations of spiritual importance. Most of my research is focused on radical groups that put forward an alternative perception of the world, like exopolitics and genealogy-based new world order conspirators.”

Bassin has found her own co-conspirators in her interests with two other emerging Melbourne artists, Kellie Wells and Alasdair McLuckie, with whom she has shown in group shows. “We work together and discus our works regularly, sharing research. All our works explore and involve ritual, and seek alternative historical cannons. The materiality of McLuckie and my work particularly references classical cultish rituals, while Wells delves into the hidden rituals of the psyche performed by the everyday person behind closed doors. We all have a strong drawing practice. We are all obsessive.”

This obsession becomes apparent in Bassin’s work in the careful selection of materials she uses. “I’ll often have an image appear in a dream that will best describe the ideas I’m working with. In this dimension, materials aren’t as fluid, so I will often search for quite a while to find a material I can manipulate satisfactorily.”

Ashley Crawford

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