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Art Talk | Dion Hortsmans

Art Talk | Dion Hortsmans

Sculptor Dion Hortsmans has a way of transforming hard and heavy pieces of steel into origami-like fluid forms which look like they're about to fly away. For Dion, who first learnt his sculpting skills working on film set production, working as an artist is pure and utter joy, he spends his days revelling in what he loves most, getting lost in his artwork and creating magic.

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Hi Dion, when did you first realise you wanted to become an artist? I think I was 7, I’d returned from the Cook Islands to New Zealand. I was making a house for my action man and imagining a whole fantasy world of creation. Scale wasn’t relevant. I was also sewing outfits for my action man and imagining him driving around on match box cars I’d pull apart and rebuild. I didn’t have a title or name for what I was doing. 

“I was just super happy being in this world of make believe and creation.”
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Tell me about your journey to where you are today as a sculptor. In 1996 my best mate Aaron Crothers introduced me to the world of sculpture. He encouraged me and gave me the confidence to work off paper and start to work three dimensionally. At first I worked with wood and reduction, carving away, trying to free something that I had imagined from within the block. I then worked with clay and plaster to build, both very different disciplines. Pretty soon afterwards I got my first job on a movie working as a props maker. This is where I cut my teeth learning new skill sets. Fabrication in steel, wood, plastics, fibre glass, moulding, silicon and mass production. 

“The world of film gave me an over all perspective on materials but also a fantastic appreciation of time and what you’re able to create in a forced timeframe.”
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What’s your favourite material to work with? I don’t really have a favourite material, presently I’m working predominately with steel. It’s incredibly forgiving. I can move pretty quickly with steel. There’s plenty of room for movement, make a mistake - cut it off and start again.

What’s the best thing about working as an artist? My life is really pretty self indulgent. I’m doing what I want to be doing. Don’t get me wrong. I work really hard at it, I do the hours, I get up at 5am. 5 days a week, I’m in my studio by 6am and on the tools by 6.30am, I work 8-9 hours a day, maybe Saturdays. I’m in my world playing, creating, making things that I’ve thought about, experimenting, developing an idea. Realising ideas. 

“It’s humbling. It’s also hot and it burns.”
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How would you best describe your work? If I had to describe my work to a blind person, I’d ask them to imagine a rocket or space ship flying through space… fast. 

Tell us a little about your creative process - do you work intuitively or is it planned? Definitely intuitively. Although in saying that my practice is constantly reflecting on itself. To coin a phrase, two steps forward, one back. That’s the work part, the creative side is constantly thinking about how I can evolve and change. Wondering what an idea would like? 

“Ideas last for a nano second… realising those ideas is hundreds of hours of work, which by default is the breeding ground for a gazillion more ideas.”
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As an artist, what’s your main source of inspiration? Life. With all its ups and downs. 

“I find everything inspiring, it’s a matter of trying to stay focused on an idea long enough to see it evolve.” 

Presently I’m trying to work out how I can get the colours in late evening onto a sculpture… colour and the gradients of it and light are playing with me.

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You work with shadow and light to create your pieces, can you tell us how this is achieved? No. I can’t tell you. What I can tell you though is that sculpture is only a part of the experience. 

“The shadow the work casts is what i’m in love with, how it moves with the sun, with the seasons.”
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What are you loving at the moment? Trying to work out how I’m going to grade colour on steel with powder coating and electroplating… and whether that's even possible, baby avocado’s, the very south corner of Bondi Beach, Fortitude on SBS On Demand and my wife Gracie, she makes me laugh so hard!

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What are you looking forward to this year? This year is almost over, crazy! I’m looking forward to tomorrow, I’ll either be in my studio making something or I’ll be taking a nana nap in the sun thinking about how I’m gonna make something.

Thank you Dion! | Dion Hortsmans @dionhortsmans

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