Nick Austin

The town wrist watch

20 December 2014 - 5 April 2015

What time is it?  This is not the first thing that comes to mind, when you see Nick Austin’s response to the Big Wall.  More likely the initial question, when you look up from the foyer below, would be; what is it?  To be fair this state of bewilderment, is not beyond this painters realms of interest.  Austin’s art more often than not, presents a beguiling amalgamation of pictorial elements from concrete ideas, everyday banal moments and absurdist situations.  In this particular piece, we find Austin meticulously producing a seemingly nondescript painting of downpipes, bricks and mortar. However, there is more to this brick wall than meets the eye, as it hovers somewhere between trompe l'oeil special effects and cartoonish backdrop.  It could be argued that the artist is paying homage to Dunedin’s rich architectural history, or making an astute reference to the substrate that lies beyond this walls pictorial surface.  But even more than this, the wall appears like a momentary apparition from an unknown beyond; a hazy snapshot, an oddball clue, a glitch in the time-space continuum.  

The time reads 10:10.  A rather symmetrical time sequence, but beyond this numerical orderliness is there significance to this moment?  All the action takes place in the physically, metaphorically and conceptually framed space, as the drawing is singled out, foregrounded and becomes the main subject of the work. In the artist’s words ‘this is a portrait of a small town’.  It is a discrete, even reticent, strange little vignette, in which a spider appears to be measured or associated with the wrist watch.  Are we to take it that the spider is the town time keeper?  Or, are we like the little creepy-crawly, caught up in a perpetual state of stasis watching or being monitored by the clock?

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