Friday, 15 February 2013
Bringing together a disparate collection of paintings and sculptures and combinations thereof, 'The Liquid Dossier' exhibition at the Hocken Library showcases works that Nick Austin created during his year as 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago.
The Hocken's Curator of Pictorial Collections Natalie Poland says previous works by Austin have used socks, phones, windows and stationery items as imagery that functions on both cryptic and literal levels. The organisation of these motifs references forms of language including puzzles and poems.
Bearing a keen interest in the tactility of language and the often strange relationship between material and object, in 'The Liquid Dossier' Austin adds the concept of the 'MacGuffin' – an object of desire that drives a narrative plot.
"The MacGuffin he uses here is both the object described in the exhibition's title (the dossier) and something enigmatic in each of the show's works. For example, several pieces in the show are linked through their references to liquid forms: Morandi Beach, Homesick, Coffee Tables, and Aquarium (with Rubbish Story) reference the ocean, coffee and aquarium water.
Over his year as Fellow, Austin's inquiry has broadened to encompass the institutional structure of the library and gallery embodied by the Hocken.
"The Liquid Dossier dwells on the Hocken's function as a repository of papers and pictures for research," she says.
"The hermetic nature of the Hocken Library and its windowless gallery is echoed in the interior of Homesick, while the sealed envelopesin Total Dread and closed curtains in Merry Christmas suggest anticipation. In the Travelling Envelope series Austin dramatises hunches that may be fruitful and in Coffee Tables, an enormous papier-maché mug forecasts a very long coffee break."
Austin's painting, Homesick, in which a family of sea shells sits on a couch in a stark living room, with a painting of the ocean above it, suggests that while Austin enjoys living in Dunedin he misses aspects of his Auckland life.
In Aquarium (with Rubbish Story), a newspaper spread that includes a story about the discovery of a Frances Hodgkins painting in a U.K. rubbish tip and its return to New Zealand is readable beneath a painted aquarium scene.
Ms Poland says that simultaneously concrete and elusive, Austin's work is always open-ended.
"As with the contents of a dossier, the works in this exhibition are loosely bound to each other and collectively they draw our attention to what is absent or missing. The gap between the title of individual works and what is visibly present in them delays the inference of meaning and creates a space for poetic qualities to emerge."
The exhibition is being held at the Hocken Library, 90 Anzac Ave, until 13 April.
For images or for the artist's contact details, contact:
Tel 03 479 5648
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