9 April – 10 July 2022
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.
Ko Life Puzzle he whakaaturanga mahi o ngā tau tekau mā rima ki taua wā, kua whakaoraoratia e te ringa ti anō. Ka whakatakotōria te whakaaturanga ki te āhua o te tangata koia, ki te tōnga o te ahiahi, ka titiro māhoi ki waenga waho me te pātai, “ E hika! He pēhea ahau i tae mai ai ki konei?”
Ki roto i ana waituhi me ana tāraitanga, ka totoro Austin he pēhea tae ai mai A ki B mā te aronga tinanatanga me te whakataki. Ngā huarahi, motoka, waewae, mapi, ko ngā mahi he ritenga toipiripiri timatatanga, waenganui me te rārangi tino tautoko. He aha tēnei kua whakahua tonu mai? He aha ka whakahua mai?
Ka pērā ki te pukuhohe mātakitaki, ko te kākano o te mahi ringa toi, he whakaritenga pakimaero te whanaungatanga a tētahi ki tōna Ao. Ko tētahi mea, he pikitia o tētahi mea rānei, he whakataukī ka kīnaki i tētahi atu, kia ohorere te whakamana. Ko te ohorere ka hoatu ki tua i te katakata, koia tonu rā. I kitea rawa e koe he kōpaki haere pakituri? He kaimahi poutāpeta mau hū teitei? Ka tuhonohonotia e te ringa toi ngā iraira ki te momo tauhou….
Ko te takune a Nick Austin ehara noa iho hei whakakatakata i tētahi, anō nei. Ka hiahia ia kia wahapū rongo waia – whakaneinei, pōnānātanga, te whēuauatanga o te kōrerorero, hei mea – ki ngā momo autaia.
Ko ngā waitohu pērā i ngā kōpaki, kauranga ika, pouaka, ka whakaatu i te kahapupuri whakarerekē. He mea rawa kei roto i ēnei mahi? Ko tērā mea pea kāhore rānei kei te whakaatuhia, ko tā rātou hemahema? Koia pea ka tangohia e te ringa toi ngā matatika a te kaituhituhi ‘whakaatuhia, kaua e whākina’ engari ka whakamahia ko te ‘kaua e whakatuhia’….
Kei te whakaaturanga e hangatia ana e ngā kīnaki matihiko kore tonu rā ia hei mahi ki roto i te whakahoahoa aunoa, ka tāuteute Life Puzzle i te punaha moni o tōna ake takotoranga koia kua tunua ki roto i te pae pāpāho pāpori.
Hui katoa, ko ngā mahi ka whakaatuhia ki roto i a Life Puzzle he mea whai whakaaro me te whakamarau. He mea āhua ‘meta’.
I whānau a Nick Austin ki Whangarei i 1979. I whiwhi ia i te tohu paetahi mō te toi ataata mai i te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Mākaurau i 2001 me te tāhu paerua o te Elam School of Fine Arts ki Whare Wānanga Tāmaki Mākaurau i 2004. Kua whakaatuhia e ia uta na i Atearoa me Ahitēria, Ngā Whenua Tōpū Amerika me Ūropi. I 2012 he Frances Hodgkins Fellow a ia ki Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou ki Otepoti, kei reira ia e noho ana inaianei.