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‘Send our ships out, into uncharted waters’: Sebastian Horsley on ‘Extreme Living’

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A friend described the late, lamented artist, writer, and renowned dandy, Sebastian Horsley as a kind and good man, who didn’t quite always think things through.

One winter, in Edinburgh, Horsley had taken pity on a poor down-and-out, who he invited back to his apartment, which he shared with another. Horsley genuinely wanted to help the man, and offered him food, drink, cigarettes, and a warm night’s sleep in bed. The poor man took to it immediately.

Horsley was rather pleased with his role as a good Samaritan, and was about to retire, when his roommate retuned to find a filthy, foul-smelling, piss-stained inebriate under his covers.
‘Why did you give him my bed?’ his roommate asked.
‘I thought he could do with a night’s sleep,’ Horsley replied.
‘But where am I going to sleep?’
‘O, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Here is Mr. Horsley (dressed in a black sequined suit, “looking half Liberace, half Nazi,”) displaying the charm, wit and honesty that made him such a well-loved man, as he discusses clothes, his ban from entering the U.S.A. (on grounds of “moral turpitude”), his autobiography Dandy in the Underworld, and why we should send “our ships out into uncharted waters—for this is the way we will discover ourselves.”
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Sebastian Horsley: Never an Ordinary Man, an interview from 1995


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sebastian Horsley: Never an Ordinary Man, an interview from 1995

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The artist, writer and dandy Sebastian Horsley claimed he was an accident, the product of a split condom. His mother drank through her pregnancy, and tried to abort the unwanted child. She failed and Sebastian was born in 1962. This might explain Horsley’s difficult relationships with women in later life, preferring to use prostitutes rather than share any emotional intimacy with another.

Horsley was originally called Marcus, which he may have preferred as it was closer to his idol Marc Bolan. But after registering his name as a baby, Horsley’s mother knew she had made a mistake, and opted instead for Sebastian. It only took her 5 years to change it by deed poll.

The name Sebastian suited Horsely. It suggested the Christian martyr Saint Sebastian, who was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows for his faith. In the same way Horsely was nailed to a cross in the Philippines for his art. Or, Sebastian Flyte - Evelyn Waugh’s character from Bridehead Revisited, whose beauty and desire were numbed by addiction to alcohol. As Horsley in his way was addicted to heroin and cocaine - a mixture of which eventually killed him. Or, Sebastian Dangerfield, J. P. Donlevy’s dissolute bohemian artist of The Ginger Man.

Horsley briefly attended St. Martin’s Art College but was kicked out after only a few months.

“I don’t think by going to college you can really achieve anything whatsoever - except perhaps they teach you how to be ordinary.”

He taught himself how to be an artist, and saw painting as a way of creating a new, unspoken language. Yet, he often felt incapable of expressing this language, and destroyed many of his paintings. He died in 2010 from an accidental overdose, leaving a life that was, in many respects, his greatest work of art.

In this brief interview from 1995, Sebastian Horsley talks about his background, his view of art, and his sartorial style.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Rest in Perversity: Sebastian Horsley

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Eight days after the West End premiere of the play based on his autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld, top-hatted London-based extreme artist and lifestylist Sebastian Horsley was found dead this morning at age 47 of an apparent heroin overdose.

Born to wealthy alcoholics, Horsley is best known for traveling to the Philippines to be crucified as part of his research for a set of paintings dealing with the topic. But besides his arcane fashion sense, penchant for whoring, and ability to make the scene—running with the likes of Nick Cave, Current 93, Coil and others—Horsley was an accomplished painter and writer, and a guy with a drawling accent who could hold court in a red velvet chair with the best of them.

The Soho Theatre cancelled tonight’s performance of Dandy…, but will continue on tomorrow. Our own Richard Metzger put it best when told the news: “How sad that the world has one less total pervert.”
 

 
Get: Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography (P.S.) [Book]

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment