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Dion Parker

He’s been a Gold Coaster for the past 25 years but 2018 is the one he’ll never forget because just last week artist Dion Parker was crowned co-winner of the Neumann Family SWELL Sculpture Award.

His sculpture, created with fellow artist Andrew Cullen, Prickles the Unhugable Bear, stands 3.5 metres tall on the sands of Currumbin Beach as part of the 2018 SWELL Sculpture Festival.

We sat down for a chat with Dion about the message behind the giant teddy bear and how the piece of art went from conception to creation.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
About 25 years.

What do you love about living here?
I love the lifestyle. I’ve spent most of my time on the southern Gold Coast, I love the beaches and the hinterland. I now live in Tallebudgera Valley, it’s really peaceful and quiet and I love that you don’t have to drive too far inland and to feel like you’re in another world.

Tell us about your sculpture in this years’ SWELL Sculpture Festival…
Prickles the Unhugable Bear was created by myself and another local artist, Andrew Cullen. We came up with the concept over a few beers and decided the idea of a giant barbed wire teddy bear was a good one. The statement we’re trying to make with the piece is that teddy bears are generally quite huggable, you think of love and affection when you think of a teddy bear. Kids are given teddy’s and they might give them a name and go on adventures or tell the teddy their secrets and to do all that sort of stuff, they use their imagination and creativity. These days it seems like kids are just handed things like tablets, phones and video games to play with and I believe they don’t encourage that creativity and imagination. When teddy bears get worn out, someone might stitch the eye back on but these days when something breaks, it gets thrown out and you get a new one. It’s not really a good thing to be encouraging children to create a throw away society.

Why do you think Prickles’ message is an important one?
Both Andrew and I have children and we both grew up without the Internet. I remember when Sega Master Systems and the original Nintendos came out, Mum always told me not to spend too much time on them and to go outside and play. I think that’s even more important these days.

What does it take to build a sculpture like yours?
It’s quite a process and months and months of work. Once we had the idea, I sat down and did a sketch, then we made a maquette that was 25cm tall and a very close representation of the Prickles you see on the beach. Both of us have entered SWELL about 15 times between us and we’ve learnt a lot as artists about what can help to have a successful festival. It was at least two months of sculpting, we made the body in six pieces then transported each one to the beach separately, wired it all together and had a crane lower the head on.

How did it feel to win the Neumann Family SWELL Sculpture Award?
Both Andrew and I believed we had a piece that, if we could make what we thought we could, we were in with a chance but when we saw the quality of the other sculptures, we realised it wouldn’t be an easy thing to win. It was a massive surprise and relief when they read our names out, we were so happy.

What are your thoughts on the Coasts’ growing art and culture scene?
I started taking art seriously in 2011 and since then the scene has grown amazingly. I think the Coast has a really strong underground arts scene and it’s a really good time to be an artist on the Gold Coast at the moment. There’s a lot of new creative spaces appearing and a lot of support for artists. I have a studio behind Dust Temple in Currumbin and there’s a really good community there. Festivals like SWELL bring thousands of people in because it’s such a beautiful location and I think lots of people who might not go to an art gallery go for a look and that brings money and awareness into the local community too.

What’s on for the rest of 2018 for you?
Andrew and I plan to enter some more festivals interstate with Prickles. I’ve just got a job with HOTA, installing exhibitions, so I’m really excited about working in a creative industry and doing something I’m really passionate about.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
The harder you work, the luckier you get and I really feel like that has been the case with us at SWELL this year.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Definitely The Alley
Café: Dust Temple
Restaurant: Zipang in Currumbin
How does your weekend usually look: I spend time hanging out with my son, lots of time at the studio the last few months so I’m excited to have some leisure time for the next few weekends

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