(b. Whangarei, New Zealand, 1979; lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand)
COMMISSIONED BY Cuckoo
Kate Newby & Nick Austin, Hold Still, Auckland, 30 August 2008. Commissioned by Cuckoo for One Day
Sculpture. Photos: Stephen Rowe except for night image by Alex North
(click to enlarge)
Nick Austin & Kate Newby
If there are any places in the city that encourage you to notice what’s around you in a contemplative way, a public park is one.
Western Park / Rimutahi, between Ponsonby Road (the ridge whose old name, Rimutahi, came from a landmark giant rimu) and Freemans Bay / Waiatarau (the reclaimed land where, as the Maori name records, water once sparkled in an actual bay) combines this function of a park – as a place for recreational walking, wandering and thinking amongst the trees – with sports grounds, regularly used by the neighbouring high school.
Nick Austin and Kate Newby – collaborating for the first time at the invitation of Cuckoo – use sculpture and performance to underscore and to skew the idea of a view, the ways of looking around us that we’re used to, and so how we make sense of our surroundings, with their work Hold Still, that existed in the park from morning until evening for one of the last days of winter.
Both Auckland artists are noted for bold intelligence, but neither is given to large, loud, gestures with obvious impact. Instead, their work shares a quietness and slowness. Austin’s paintings and sculptures often seem like puzzles, combinations of objects and ideas that have the precision of a good joke or a striking coincidence that grows on you without ever resolving into a punchline. Similarly Newby’s constructions – that have included flags, and inscriptions in public space – don’t compete with the tone and style of commercial signage, but reveal themselves by being too ambiguous and too personal to be part of any campaign. Neither, then, is likely to offer us only an instant hit.
How does this slow-release approach work with the span of a single day? How does the gently made demands on our attention show up in a place already about looking?
The artists’ title, Hold Still, suggests a need for patience.
[LEFT] Nick Austin, The postie, skateboard, heels, concrete, 2005 - from Concrete Thought, Special Gallery, Auckland
[RIGHT] Nick Austin, On Appetitb, installation shot, 2007, Artspace, Auckland (photo by Alex North)
Nick Austin’s interests lie somewhere between reading a recipe and making a dish – using what’s at hand, intuition and method, surprise and expectation, text versus flavour, familiarity and strangeness, making things from other things, right ways and wrong ways, easy ways and difficult ways. These concerns usually manifest themselves in materially slight paintings, drawings, and sculptural compositions that often utilise found and everyday objects.
Austin’s works highlight his engagement with the pleasing aesthetic and integrity of concrete or visual poetry. Materials function as ideas of form, at once completely contained and open, while waiting for a reader to enunciate their existence. Austin cites influences such the compositions of sandwiches, jokes, and crossword puzzles as a means of thinking about “how the how can become the what” – how the way something is made might be apparent in what it is.
Austin graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2004. He has since exhibited in numerous spaces around New Zealand and Australia and was the recipient of a Creative New Zealand New Work Grant in 2007. Recent exhibitions include Echoes, Echoes, Echoes, Gambia Castle, 2008; On Appetitb, Artspace, 2007; Strands, Clumps, The Physics Room, 2007; Poor Memory, Gambia Castle, Auckland, 2007; and In A Room, Starkwhite, Auckland, 2006.
He is a member of artist-run project Gambia Castle in Auckland.