Dion Horstmans: Sculptor & Artist

Dion Horstmans: Sculptor & Artist

Jim Watts May 15, 2019

Sydney, Australia
Sculptor, Artist 

Dion Horstmans is a force of nature. Known for his bold angular sculptures, his work bursts with his dynamic energy. Horstmans strives to depict fluid movement through static structures - strong lines join together in his sculpture to create forceful, multi-dimensional works. Fascinated by the play between light and shade, he endeavours to freeze time with tangible shadows.

Horstmans grew up between New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Drawn to the ocean by his Polynesian heritage, he now calls Bondi his home. Before delving into the life of an artist proper in 2006, he spent over a decade in the film industry constructing props and models for movie sets – a period that he owes his endless curiosity for large scale works made with industrial materials. Today, Horstmans boasts a long list of successful exhibitions and public art commissions to his name. With an artistic output that can only be described as prolific, he continues to produce creations at his Sydney studio ten hours a day, six days a week. Most recently, he has been preparing his latest show Super Position at Sydney's China Heights gallery, on now until May 25th.

We caught up with Horstmans over a cup of our Organic Minted Tea to learn more about his craft, current show and what drives his relentless creativity.

TOTP: How would you describe your work?

DH: I work predominantly in sculpture, but really I'm working in space and volume. It’s an idea. I could make all my sculptures white and place them on white walls and it’s still about the shadow that they cast and the volume that they take up. That movement within shadow and within light. I love drawing, but I don't really draw. These curly drawings of mine are my latest things. They’re also about volume and space. They're about trying encompass something.

What do you most enjoy about your artistic process?

Problem solving. The whole journey is problem solving. So how there's a question, and then how to fulfil that question, how to realise that question. It takes a while. To get those round pieces I have on the walls in my studio now, going from my original diamonds and triangles shapes to those round pieces was a real process. That was part of the journey.

There's a certain satisfaction in that.

The satisfaction is that you don't really get an answer. I suppose that the satisfaction in a tangible way is that you get a sculpture at the end of it, or that you’ve finished a piece of artwork. The reality is that there's just more questions. As you're going along creating, you're thinking "What if I do it this way, or if I did this that way, or what if, or what if…” There’s those constant questions. The picture gets bigger and bigger.


You're now quite well known for your particular style. Do you feel you need to create a narrative to get away from it?

That’s what my drawings are and what the shows are about. You do need that narrative. You can't go just from making something angular to curved. I spent a year working out how to do that. The public are still going to look at me as just diamonds and triangles.

You don't want to be cornered there.

No I don't want to be. The thing with a practice and to be able to continue having a practice is that you have to continually evolve. Because people catch up. The people invested in you also want to see your work evolve. They don't want to see it stay in one place. As a creative you don't want to just be doing the same thing over and over again. You get bored and you get complacent and lazy, which is what a lot of people do. They become lazy because they have found a way to make something that makes them money. And then someone comes along and goes, “Well, Dion is doing this, so I can do it.” And he'll take it one step further than me because he has fresh eyes and gives the art new life. So you've got to be constantly evolving.

What drives your creative process?

That's a tough one. Ultimately it's about discipline. To be able to create is a privilege. But it's also not the easy path. You have to get up every day and come to the studio. It’s very much a solo life. I'm in my own head all day.


Do you have any daily rituals that you have to follow?

I come here six days a week. I turn up almost every day. I eat breakfast every day. I eat lunch every day. I train every afternoon. I train 6 to 9 times a week because that's my human time. It doesn't even matter if I'm talking to someone, I'm around other people. Because I live alone and I work alone.

What did you want to do when you were growing up?

I always wanted to be an artist. I always wanted to design. And then when I got a little older I thought, "Hey, maybe I could do advertising." Because it was doing something creative, it was thinking and problem solving. And I didn't really know if advertising was even a thing, I just liked the graphics and the logos. The design and the form and alluding to something. But being an artist is what I've always wanted to be.

Can you tell us about any recent exhibitions you've enjoyed and about that artist?

I checked out The Broad Gallery when I was in Los Angeles. It's a private gallery there. And the artwork in there was great - a private collection. Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ellsworth Kelly. It was really amazing. Basquiat is not really for me, but Kelly's works are just insane. His work is all about shadow and space, so I related to that.


Do you have a dream project?

No, not really, but I would like to build a bridge. My piece Supersonic in Melbourne is 85 meters long. It's a big piece. But I'd like to build a combination of an art piece and a functioning bridge. Something big scale. Everything scales up really beautifully.

What's coming up for you?

I have a show starting May 17th called Super Position at China Heights gallery. My friend asked me if the title means anything. It actually comes from quantum physics. Superposition states: "For all linear systems, the net response caused by two or more stimuli is the sum of the responses that would have been caused by each stimulus individually." So there's two things happening at once and what that forms. My angular pieces and then my curvy drawings and curvy pieces. Everything is interlaced.

What do you love about Bondi?

What's not to love about Bondi? You know what I love? At the end of the street where I live, and at the end of Hall Street where The Organic Tea Project is, there's the Pacific Ocean. A wild, clean, ferocious, beautiful ocean that you can jump into. There's a real sense of space. You can just re-energise. You get to reset.

Does tea play a role in your life?

Funnily enough, my ideal cup is a minted tea at night before bed.


Each month, The Organic Tea Project is sitting down with Australian creatives to learn more about their craft, inspirations, collaborations and upcoming projects. Be sure to check back next month for another profile, best enjoyed with a cuppa.