Nick Austin: Life Puzzle

Nick Austin: Life Puzzle

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington

March 1, 2023
Nick Austin
Life Puzzle
February 11–April 30, 2023
Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm
Facebook / Instagram

Life Puzzle is the first substantial exhibition to survey the work of New Zealand artist Nick Austin. Austin (b. 1979) describes himself as the product of a deskilled fine arts education who has taken up painting and object making as his preferred means to convey his particular take on the world. Based in Dunedin, New Zealand’s southern-most city, he has developed a practice that co-opts the paraphernalia of everyday life to interrogate what it means to make art whilst juggling work and the humdrum realities of family life. Relishing the small things and overlooked details of his existence, he lets his imagination wander in ways that make the ordinary strange; inveigling philosophical depth and critical insight without the viewer hardly realising. 

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 quizzical and serious effect. Featuring works produced over the last 15 years, the exhibition is selected and arranged by the artist to capitalise on relationships between his works and the Gallery’s architecture. 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?’” While a first reaction is to laugh, the artist’s intention is to “articulate familiar senses—anticipation, uncertainty, the difficulty of communication—in unfamiliar ways.”

To accompany Austin’s exhibition, Adam Art Gallery is presenting a one-night screening of a selection of videos by American artist Stuart Sherman (1946–2001). Sherman’s performances, films and videos have been a touchstone for Austin, who recognises in Sherman’s works a similar absurdist turn, where everyday objects and situations are presented and manipulated in puzzling, funny and poignant ways. Sherman was a well-known figure in New York’s downtown scene in the 1970s and 1980s. His videos have been borrowed from Electronic Arts Intermix, which has a large collection of his moving-image works.

This is the second iteration of Life Puzzle, which was first presented at Whangārei Art Museum between April 9 and 10 July 2022. It is presented alongside Aro Toi / Art Collection Focus: Ana Iti, A dusty handrail along the track, 2021, a video installation recently acquired for Ngā Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection.

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery is the art gallery of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington located in Wellington, the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection is managed. The Gallery’s programmes aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries and create new opportunities to bring artists together and generate fresh conversations. The building is a remarkable architectural statement designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.

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Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
March 1, 2023

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