Interview by Atorina Saliba
Dion Parker is a multidisciplinary artist currently based on the Gold Coast. He has worked on a range of projects over the years, collaborating with various professional artists up and down the coast, and overseas.
He’s collaborated with HOTA in a series of short animations featuring his signature character ‘Lil Dusty’. He’s exhibited a sculpture at SWELL Sculpture Festival every year since 2011, has worked with the Gold Coast Music Awards, and more. Lately, he’s been working tirelessly on a new solo exhibition—’Mid Life Vices’—opening at the tail-end of April in Coolangatta. The collection comprises of paintings, sculpture, and ceramics, some of which are collaborations with local artists. It’s also a celebration of his 40th birthday.
‘Mid Life Vices’ will run from April 24 until May 9. We talk to Dion about his recent collection. Read the full interview online.
Everywhere I go on the Gold Coast, I realised most people aren’t natives. They have, in fact, migrated to this sunny part of Australia themselves in an attempt to escape either the busyness of cities or looking for a beach town without isolating themselves from society. Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got started making art on the Gold Coast.
I was born in Melbourne and grew up in a small town in south Gippsland. We moved to the Gold Coast when I was 13 and I’ve lived here ever since (apart from a brief stint living in the USA). I’ve always been creative and had a desire to be an artist since I was young. It wasn’t until around 2011 that I started sharing my work with the public and entered my exhibition [into SWELL].
Since then I’ve met and connected with many amazing people and artists. I’m currently part of Mint Art House, an artist-run collective based in Burleigh heads, housing 14 artists.
The creative community on the Gold Coast has grown immensely in the last ten years and I’m excited to watch it continue to grow, and be a part of it.
‘Mid Life Vices’ is your new solo exhibition and opens in April 2021. Tell us about the collection for this show.
I’m really looking forward to sharing my new body of work! It’s a collection of works created recently using a variety of mediums such as bronze, ceramics, timber and acrylic paint.
I use my art as a way of dealing with and exploring my emotions and feelings. Most of the pieces have meanings to me that probably aren’t that obvious to the viewer, some of them may be much more obvious than I realise. (laughs)
I’ve always enjoyed working with various mediums, most recently ceramics. I’ve learned to mould and slip cast and that allows me to reproduce items, something I enjoy doing. I like exploring similar themes and ideas using a variety of mediums. Those who check out the show may notice some recurring images and themes.
Is this the first time you’ll be celebrating your birthday with the launch of an exhibition?
Yes! This is the first time I’m combining my birthday with an exhibition. I’ve never really celebrated my birthday in the past, but I’m turning 40 so I figured it’s one worth remembering.
What’s your motive behind the colour choices for the paintings?
I like to mix my own colours. I started using a pastel palette last year and really enjoy the feeling I get from those colours. They are kind of calming in a way, yet still bright and vibrant. I like the way some appear to change slightly when placed in different combinations. I paint a lot of figures yet none of the colours I use are really human colours. To me it gives a sense of something unreal, or dreamlike.
Before you dedicated your time to artmaking, you were a boatmaker. You paint, draw, create animations, sculptures. You’ve entered SWELL every year since 2011 and won the 2018 prize with Andrew Cullen for Prickles the Unhuggable Bear. You also create sculptures for the Gold Coast Music Awards, which must be strange and surreal to create an award for other artists. But, as a multidisciplinary artist, has your background in boatmaking been beneficial to your work?
I love being involved with Gold Coast Music Awards and it makes me very proud that a sculpture I created is used to award talented musicians for their hard work.
Although I really didn’t enjoy my time as a boatbuilder, I did learn many valuable skills that I have been able to translate into my creative practice, especially sculpture.
Dion Parker is currently a resident artist at Mint Art House.
‘Mid Life Vices’ opens Saturday April 24 until May 9 at the Coolangatta Art Space, Gold Coast.