with Feeling - Natasha Percy
"Artist's Palette" Magazine,
Australia 2003 (no.27)
Archibald's work is intense and evocative. The poignancy of his
thick brushstrokes, the sometimes stark blocks of colour, the sketchy
lines and simple but powerful colour contrasts reflect the personality
of his subject. Painting for Dion is a matter of feeling as well as
skill, and his career so far promises a bright future.
has always been Dion's passion. As a child he drew and built things,
using whatever materials were to hand. Drawing, was where he was
most comfortable, combining his thoughts with his surroundings,
simply using pencil and paper. "Rather than playing sports
or getting up to no good as a child, I drew, coloured in and discovered
ways to express myself," he says. To this day he still has
an affinity and a great respect for drawing. "It really is
the 'bones' of art," he says. "You have to be able to
walk before you can run."
discovered oils at the age of 15 and was instantly a fan. He remembers
marvelling at the different effects that could be achieved and his
fascination with them has not waned. "Oils have held me captive
ever since and my obsession with the medium has only increased each
this time, Dion's eyes were opened to the possibilities of modern
art through the work of Brett Whiteley. "Before, I thought
art was about painting sheds and landscapes - but Whiteley's work
showed me that it was more than that," he says. The vivacity
and variety in Picasso's work have also been important influences
for Dion. "Picasso did so much and he had such an energy and
love for it," he asserts. And Van Gogh's vulnerability captured
Dion's imagination. "Van Gogh was so absorbed in his work that
he sacrificed himself to it," he maintains.
following year, he went on to study art at TAFE and this was a time
of discovery, receiving feedback and learning about the process
of art in general. "Before, I would take offence if someone
didn't like my work," he says, "but with different teachers
offering me advice, I have toughened up a bit and learned to take
criticism." Dion was particularly influenced by Newcastle artist
Michael Bell, who was one of his teachers. "He helped me to
understand that to be an artist, you have to make sacrifices, be
very disciplined and most importantly, have fun with art!"
was the next step, where Dion studied art history and theory - or
what he refers to as the reason behind painting. While this was
an interesting time for him, he soon became restless and the simple
desire to create something took over. "I don't feel I have
to explain in detail the reason for painting or sculpting a work.
I do it because it is fun, and I'd be restless if I didn't,"
desire to draw and paint has dominated his career, but he admits
that being an artist has been far from glamourous. "I have
sacrificed a lot and I've gone without many of the things my friends
take for granted," he says. Painting has been his full-time
focus for the past eight years now. "Art has been very important
to me all my life, so I have given it the time and commitment it
deserves," he reflects.
of the great influences on Dion's life so far has been the exotic
land of Turkey. Hungry for adventure and eager to meet a girl he
got to know over the Internet, he set off and spent a year in total
living in Turkey. His time there familiarised him with the culture
and gave him a wonderful opportunity to explore different subject
matter. Still lifes, interiors and portraits were his initial conquests.
"I was still forming a relationship with Istanbul, looking
for ways to know it better and create a more honest depiction of
the place," he says. He was struck by the differences between
this city and his homeland. "It's an ancient city, lived-in
and used like no place in Australia," he says.
magic and charm still stays with Dion. "Turkey for me is a
place of extremes," he says, "it is kind and cruel, beautiful
and ugly, east and west, democratic and oppressive, old and new."
He grew to love, appreciate and understand the landscape and the
lifestyle in a way that perhaps will never leave him.
time in Turkey also had a lasting effect on Dion's colour palette.
The blue-grey, cream and caramel-yellow colourings of the city buildings
were essential for a true depiction in his paintings and they have
stayed with him, now seen in his paintings of Newcastle and also
in other figurative and still-life works. "I had been working
in reds and blues," he says, "but these were colours I
had never seen before and I just liked the combination." They
are now a part of the process for him, giving him the freedom to
focus on the other areas of painting. "It means I can focus
on painting itself without worrying if the colours are going to
work together," he adds.
Bench (Newcastle) 2002
colours work particularly well with the texture Dion likes to create
in his oil paintings. He loves the consistency of oil paint, which
allows him to build up layers, scratching lines into blobs of paint
for a flickering effect reminiscent of old movies. Oils suit this
artistic process. "I can paint a layer and then come back and
start again," he explains. "My idea for a painting might
change as I apply more layers and I like that unpredictability,"
he smiles. Working in oils also means he can have 10 to 15 paintings
going at the same time.
paintings have an intense and emotive quality about them, which
he says is all part of the picture. "I'm not bothered if a
painting shows how I feel," he says. "I have really liked
the work of other artists who have done the same thing." However
after two hours working away in his studio, Dion says he comes away
exhausted. But he admits that painting is so much a part of his
nature that he doesn't have much control over the artistic impulse.
"If I see something and I think it looks nice, I can't help
myself - I have to paint it," he says.
is enthusiastic about the Internet as a forum for artists to communicate
with one another and sell their work. "It has really opened
up so many new doors for me as an artist." He envisages a bright
future for artists on the Internet. "I believe it will become
as essential as the art gallery for artists," he predicts.
Dion also loves the honesty and partial anonymity of the Internet.
"I think communication online between the artist and the viewer
is often more direct because people are more relaxed with the idea
of sending an email to another computer than they are writing a
letter and sending it to the artist, or talking directly."
looks forward to a future of fun and success as an artist - enjoying
and developing his painting but also acquiring the promotional skills
to be able to share and sell his art, and he concludes, "I'm
aiming for the emotional honesty of Van Gogh and the promotional
skills of Coca-Cola!"
& Beach (Newcastle) 2002
by Natasha Percy
"Artist's Palette" Magazine,
Australia 2003 (no.27)