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Nick Austin: Life Puzzle

Nick Austin, Toothbrush Cycle, 2016, acryilic on aliminium board. University of Auckland art collection.
Nick Austin, Travelling Envelope #8, 2012, acrylic on newspaper.
Nick Austin, Erased Tattoo, 2014, acrylic on canvas. Wallace Arts Trust collection.
9 Apr 2022 to 10 Jul 2022
10am - 4pm from 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.
Event type: 
Whangārei Art Museum
91 Dent Street, Whangārei Town Basin


This 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.

Written by

Whangārei Art Museum

25 Mar 2022

Whangārei Art Museum is Northland's public art gallery, and the custodian of Whangārei city’s outstanding art collection. We host touring and internally curated exhibitions, and showcase artistic excellence in creative art practice throughout Northland, New Zealand and beyond.