10 February – 29 April 2023
Life Puzzle is the first substantial exhibition to survey the work of Ōtepoti-based artist Nick Austin. Featuring works produced over the last 15 years selected and arranged by the artist, it was first presented at the Whangārei Art Museum, in the town where he was born and grew up. Austin describes the exhibition’s presentation as being “in the manner of a person who, late in the evening, gazing into the middle distance asks: ‘How the heck did I get here?’.” Austin’s work is hard to pin down. He takes everyday objects and re-imagines them differently. While a first reaction is to laugh – what is that shark fin doing inside a DLE envelope? –Austin describes his intention as being to “articulate familiar senses – anticipation, uncertainty, the difficulty of communication – in unfamiliar ways.” Life Puzzle consists of drawings, paintings and sculptures that nod knowingly to the histories of surrealist, modernist, conceptual and minimalist art and offer wry observations on life, using visual puns and wordplays to amusing and serious effect. For the iteration at Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery the artist has recreated the wall painting, The Town Wrist Watch (2014), the brick wall piece Panadol (2007), and Coffee Tables (2012), an over-scaled papier-mache mug perched on two coffee tables.
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.