Miniature drawings take a special kind of skill. Patience is a virtue and the focus required to handle a pen or pencil with such minute movements makes this type of art particularly enthralling to the vast majority of people who aren’t able to do it. Marc Basemen takes it one step further. Not only rendering tiny spaces with his art, but creating narrative-driven set-pieces within them.
Despite the size, they’re still crowded. There’s a lot going on, many weird and wonderful compositions of wild animals and humanoid shapes vying for your attention. It’s so easy to get lost within them that you could easily forget you really need a special magnifying glass or lens to accurately dissect it all.
Wielding the almighty and time-tested tool of graphite, Baseman’s monochromatic works are a series of contrasts and complexities, neatly separated by their strict colour code. Drawing inspiration from Cubist pioneers like Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, the artist is able to tell his stories in an amalgam of comic book style and omnipotency on behalf of the viewer.
All things seem to be happening simultaneously, which is technically true of life. Yet, they’re condensed into all happening in the same very small space - usually no more than three inches by three inches - like postage stamps that are exploding with action.
Their business is akin to a child’s textbook scrawlings, an imagination as yet untamed, unleashed with pure artistic abandon. Linked together by their proximity, each figure is a story in its own right, as well as one small part of a thrilling whole. Where the realism - that of everyday situations being depicted - can easily become surrealism, is the sense of scale the he bestows (or doesn’t) onto the piece. Rats can ran amuck at the same size as humans. Still, it doesn’t jar with the viewer.
We willingly accept this as just a part of the package of a Baseman miniature, these little curiosities that people press their eyes up against to try and take it all in. The viewing experience itself almost borders on the philosophical. As a marketing genius draws people in by mere sleight-of-hand positioning - in other words, galvanising human curiosity - Baseman’s miniatures necessitate us look at them up close in order to actually see it.
Succeeding to have people really look at your art is one of the largest battles artists face. Why bestow it with such meaning if it is never to be understood? Nearly everybody looks at a Baseman because, as we just said, they have to. Once there, having already made the effort, you won’t see many people just look away.
Think of it like a faint sound in the background that’s just below comprehensive audible detection. What’s that noise? People may ask, as they cock their head towards where they believe the source to reside. Then a discussion starts as to what it could be. What I’m saying is, nobody really cares what the sound really is, they just want to sate their curiosity. It’s exactly this trickery that makes it so difficult to just walk by these pieces.
Baseman doesn’t necessarily draw them small for this reason. If anything, the size of the art has worked its magic on him too. It’s easy to imagine the artist hunched over a light and magnifying glass, with the deftest of touches, making these bits of paper come to life. His finished pieces are purposeful, planned through various sketches and executed with precision.
Operating with regular business hours, Baseman displays astute discipline. This is art that is the result of a highly trained hand. Less about the subconscious or depiction of emotions, the pieces have the same mechanical precision to that we’d associate with a master creator of fine timepieces. And like a fine timepiece, we’re forever entranced by the role of each cog and its function in making something mesmeric in its entirety.
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