Nick Austin: Life Puzzle
Life Puzzle is an exhibition of Nick Austin’s 15-odd years of practice so far, curated by the artist himself. The exhibition is presented in the manner of a person who, late in the evening, gazing into the middle distance asks: ‘How the heck did I get here?’
In his paintings and sculptures, Austin explores how to get from A to B in a physical and narrative sense. Roads, vehicles, feet, a map: the works are like collages of beginnings, middles, and punchlines. What just happened? What’s going to happen?
Like observational comedy, the kernel of the artist’s process is a novel consideration of one’s relationship with the world. A thing, or a picture of a thing, or a phrase, gets arranged with another, to surprising effect. Surprise precedes laughter, after all. Did you ever see a hitch-hiking envelope? A postie in high-heels? The artist joins dots in strange ways...
Nick Austin’s intention is not simply to make one laugh, though. He wishes to articulate familiar senses – anticipation, uncertainty, the difficulty of communication, say – in unfamiliar ways.
Motifs such as envelopes, aquariums, boxes, exhibit varying degrees of opacity. Is there anything inside these works? Or, is what they are not showing, only their emptiness? It’s as if the artist takes the writer’s dictum ‘show don’t tell’ but does it as ‘don’t show…’
While the exhibition is made up of distinctly non-digital ingredients, as an exercise in auto-curation, Life Puzzle absorbs the currency of self-presentation that is baked into social media.
Collectively, the work presented in Life Puzzle is reflective and introspective; it’s quite ‘meta’.
Nick Austin was born in Whangārei in 1979. He received a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Auckland University of Technology in 2001 and a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 2004. He has exhibited throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and in Australia, United States and Europe. In 2012 he was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin, where he now lives.
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Whangarei Art Museum, Whangarei
Sunday 10 July 2022