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Written by Ole Dahl
Hamish Horsley's artistic development has been a process of exploration and technical achievement, moving from realism to the conceptual, from early figurative work to monumental abstract compositions. His changing imagery reflects his own search for spiritual and ecological awareness, chronicled not only in notes and sketchbooks, but also in his lifestyle.
Born in New Zealand, his childhood was spent close to nature by the mountains and sea. In his early 20s he left searching adventure in SE Asia and India before settling for two years in a Himalayan monastery. For the past 20 years, by way of complete contrast, he has been based in London, studying and working as a professional artist.
A classical art education at London's City and Guilds Art School gave his work a solid figurative foundation. Later at the Royal College of Art, influenced by his growing interest in Zen and natural forms, his imagery evolved into something more organic.
"I felt then that my work needed to go further by encompassing some form of spiritual and personal regeneration. I needed to find images that worked as good sculpture, that expressed energy and personality, with harmony and balance at the core."
Returning to the natural landscape, Horsley began a series of new and experimental sculptures. Placing uncarved stones in a series of patterns directly into the ground, these works seemed to call up imagery of his past, images of falling water and rocky landscapes. It also initiated a prolonged period of travel into new and wild landscapes in Tibet, China and East Asia allowing him to complete a series of powerful photographic images that documented both the land and people with an intense and detailed observation.
"I spent an enormous amount of time travelling, carrying little but cameras and notebooks, and frequently without any particular sense of direction. But it is this part of my life that has been so integral to the development of my current thinking and seeing, forming a curiously intangible foundation to all my work, whether as sculptor, painter or writer."
"Most of these travels have been documented in photography, initially as a way of recording landscapes which I felt particularly drawn to, but the images conjured up in those great expanses have become the foundation to much of my current work."
The most significant development in Horsley's work in recent years has been his public work. Here he works in a manner that relates directly to the time and place in which it is built, enhancing the space it inhabits, creating a sense of place that draws the viewer into his vision. Of the many monumental sculptures, the piece at Durham exemplifies this image as it compliments the site in a curiously quiet but powerful way while the focus remains the cathedral on which the work is centred.
"My objective in the public commissions is to create a visual harmony, a natural empathy, between the sculpture and its environment. Such works can increase an awareness of the place and so provide a means to see and feel our habitat in a different way."
In his most recent public work, the Tibetan Peace Garden he sets out to accomplish just this. Drawing together structural complexity within a simple harmonious arena, his vision of architecture and sculpture combined within a single concept, becomes a powerful reality.
His new work has become more object based, drawings and small works in stone and bronze that use myth and inner awareness as the basis for exploration and productivity. These sculptures and drawings, along with the photography are all intricately interrelated in Horsley's work as he sets out to record and express his own distinct view of the world.
Ole Dahl, Oslo 01.6.00