By all rights, Dion Horstmans should be dead or at the very least scarred in some way. He had a rocky start to life and later some scary close shaves but this goliath of a bloke and dominating contributor to the Australian contemporary art world seems invincible. His early life was tough. It was harsh and dysfunctional but he bears no malice, casts little blame and his thoughts on the subject are pragmatic and accepting. Despite this beginning, he has grown into a positive and forward thinking man and a dedicated and loving father to two daughters. He is honest and open, takes responsibility but no prisoners and lives by his convictions. The very nature of his childhood years must have left little room for dreams and inspiration but thankfully his love for art and creativity began the moment he learnt how to hold a pencil.
He was born in Wellington, New Zealand with Scottish, English, Australian, Italian and Niue Island blood running through his veins. His life so far has been as colourful and well travelled as his heritage.
Horstmans was an art school dropout with an inherent lack of interest in what it all seemed to represent. The tired and over adopted culture of the tortured and struggling art student coupled with the endless lectures about dead painters bored him and in true maverick style he bailed and went travelling to exotic islands living on freshly caught fish and fallen beach coconuts.
At 22 he tried his hand at high rise window cleaning and fell from a great height smashing his pelvis and elbow and endured L1 and L5 spinal lumbar injuries. This unfortunate incident led to 3 months in a full body brace in a hospital ward.
A few years later he was crushed under 2 tonnes of cement board when he was building the photographic studio ‘The Front’ for Stan Hill in Sydney. The same year he was bitten by a white tail spider which left a gaping, pustulant hole in his arm. “Weird eh..I’d just returned from 3 months in far east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, survived wild buffalo, dingoes, all manner of snakes..big hungry browns, fat squat death adders and black snakes, then I get back to domestic Bondi and get taken out by a White Tail spider. Little Fucker”.
He dabbled in alcohol and drug abuse, endured a few years of scrapes and near misses before cleaning himself up and rising from the destructive flames of addiction and self-destruction to catapult himself head on into hardcore fitness and disciplined training regimes. It shows. All 6 ft god knows what of him. He’s built like a brick sh*t house as my dad would say.
Horstmans has been a full-time artist for 10 years and previously spent 15 years as a set builder in the film industry honing his skills & equipping him with a multitude of problem-solving capabilities.
His work is bold, jagged, forceful and defiant. His pieces cast sexy shadows, play with light and appeal to a diverse audience. These are not the kind of pieces that you can simply walk past without comment at any of his packed out exhibitions.
He predominately uses powder coated steel and when I enquire about any new ideas for the future in regard to style or material choice he replies “I’ve been thinking recently about different materials, have a few ideas but, more importantly, I am always an emerging artist..it’s never ending”
By his own admission..”My brain works faster than my hands can keep up with”. When I ask if this is frustrating he laughs “Not at all, it’s a challenge”.
East Village Radio ‘Chances with Wolves’ program
Cook Island drum music
Eva Hilde. Modern Day Sculptor in Sweden. Works predominately with ceramics and metal.
Constantine Brancusi. Romanian Sculptor 1876-1957 Known as ‘The Patriarch of Modern Sculpture’
Peter Lundberg. Modern Day Sculptor. Works predominately with concrete and stainless steel.
Aarhus. Sculpture by the Sea in Denmark. “I’m in the process of submitting for the 2015 exhibition. I was in last year’s show. It’s an awesome event, it felt great to travel overseas and exhibit as an artist. I’m pretty stoked with what I’m submitting…a 3 part sculpture that I’d like to place in the forest there.”
Vivid Festival 2012 (annual festival of light, music and ideas)
Sculpture by the Sea. Bondi’s International Sculpture Exhibition. “I was in the 2011 and 2012 exhibitions. Last year I was knocked back. I was really bummed, I thought my submission was solid. Clearly not. It’s an awesome event to be part of though and what Hanley has created for artists worldwide is brilliant”
Boheme in Hall St, Bondi by Bates Smart Architects for Toga Group Developers.
2012 L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Windows by Design.
Commissioned works featured in Vogue Living, Harper’s Bazaar & The Age (Melbourne) magazines.
“The Walker Project, not a project but a huge boost, as was being picked up by Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne”.
Harper’s Bazaar and The Age, Melbourne. “In conjunction with Melbourne Fashion Week, a fun project where artists were asked to create works in response to a particular designer. I was part of the 2012 event”
In recent years, Horstmans has met and formed a relationship for the first time with his father.
“I was with some friends having dinner one night, I felt vulnerable and alone…just been dumped by the girl I was in love with. The conversation turned to fathers, a mate of mine said “you’re a man, he’s a man, just call him” So the next morning I Googled his number in Townsville and called him cold. I was sitting down at the office in Bondi, I was terrified. We talked, I told him that I was booking a ticket to come visit him the following week. He said ok. I flew up there, no problem, sat on the plane terrified. What if he isn’t there? What if he didn’t want to know me? I got hit hard by the ‘what ifs’..the stewardess eventually kicked me off the plane. My old man was there to meet me. We drove to his house, drank, hung out, talked, laughed, hugged..it was awesome. He’s as flawed as I am but now I have a father and we talk at least once a week.”
It was obvious as I got to know him that he really is at one with nature, particularly ocean side. He’s a wanderer, a warrior, a brave risk-taker and he needs to breathe the elements and swim with the fishes. He even looked like a modern day Neptune as the waves crashed behind him on our crisp and early morning beach shoot. I knew that he’d have an opinion on this subject and that he wouldn’t hold back…
“I love the ocean, I’ve always lived by the ocean. It’s a place I can ‘zero out’, reconnect and get back to my roots and so the overfishing of our oceans, the constant pollutants that are washed into our waters, dick heads who smoke and flick their butts…really…fuck sticks..and the $12.4 billion dollars we’re spending on war planes..we could educate a lot of people with that money.”
“I love my car, yeah it’s a 1964 Pontiac Parisienne. I really love my 1984 F100 too, it’s a beast. Where the Pontiac purrs the F100 roars. I really love my trainers as well. And my custom made RM Williams boots”.
2014 and Beyond.
“Artistically I’m really excited about the public work in Melbourne which is being fabricated now and the work is commencing mid-May. There have been delays with the installation because of tolerances, the first parts are up. There are 91 parts to this 85-metre monster, it’s a game changer for me.”
“Memcorp have commissioned me to create a huge sculptural installation in the foyer of 259 George St in the CBD Sydney..a cool job. I’m submitting for Sculpture by the Sea in Aarhus (Denmark) and Hyundai have approached me to create a sculpture for Sculpture by the Sea Bondi 2014. Hyundai is one of the main sponsors. I thought I’d nailed it but the CEO decided that my concept was too abstract..back to the drawing board which is totally cool. I was put forward for this by Brett Galvin from Mint PR in Sydney. I’m also collaborating with George Livissiantis (highly acclaimed interior designer) on a project in Potts Point..very cool to work with George. A solo show in October at He Made She Made Gallery in Oxford St Sydney. I like this space, it’s a great opportunity to create something a little left of centre and see what the reaction is. I have a vision for this, you’ll have to wait.”
“I’ll probably try and have another show at Gallery 2010 this year..in fact, I’ll make that happen. I want to build a bridge…maybe 2, maybe in China. I want to travel to the states…I’d like to set up shop in LA for 3 months, create a huge body of work, show there and in NYC. Not so hard….”
“Personally, I’ll marry my girlfriend, then I’m going to try and create a beautiful child with her”. Dion’s partner is Grace “She’s a naturopath and a yoga teacher. She keeps me healthy and I’m totally captivated by her. She’s about to launch her own artisan tea brand.”
“I have a bigger and better workshop. My own space..so my head’s off thinking about how to break the space up, I can make it totally cool..studio..workshop..meeting place. I’m really excited about this.”
“Beyond that, I have a hunger to create, I don’t really spend too much time thinking about why or how…I just do. I want to keep creating work.. and then, of course, there’s life…”
Photographer Toby Burrows
Location Mackenzie Bay, Bondi. Australia
Images of Dion at Mackenzie Bay, Bondi by Toby Burrows for The National Treasures Series
Beard Styling by Leonard Mattis http://www.leonardmattis.com/
Images of Dion’s sculptures by Jay Harrison.
Thank You, Gascoigne and King for supplying a beautiful candle gift for Dion.