John Hurrell – 22 March, 2017
Austin's food charts, with his cursive handwriting listing vegetable or protein types, mingled with erasures and ink colour changes, are guides for easy nutriment location on the wire shelves in freezers. On another level these dietary preoccupations and spatial trackings for ravenous cooks are also floor plans for apartments. The four lots of two or three-set canvases have an architectural function, showing diagrammatically where various succulent leafy edibles or peculiar meats in cold storage live.
10 March - 8 April 2017
A sparse but surprisingly effective installation, using written-upon, white butted-together canvases as guides for the internal contents of fridges, and a carved (partially painted) polystyrene sofa, Nick Austin’s new Hopkinson Mossman presentation - for all its airy minimalism - has got presence. It is not haunting but it is definitely memorable. Funny ha ha (as you’d expect with Austin) while also oddly anxious. It even has a slightly Georges Perec feel - the antibourgeois sentiments of Things: A Story of the Sixties mixed with the organising structure of Life: A User’s Manual.
Austin’s food charts, with his cursive handwriting listing vegetable or protein types (aligned at different angles), mingled with erasures and ink colour changes, are guides for easy nutriment location on the wire shelves in freezers. On another level these dietary preoccupations and spatial trackings for ravenous (but finnicky) cooks are also floor plans for apartments. The four lots of two or three-set canvases have an architectural function, showing diagrammatically where various succulent leafy edibles or peculiar meats (such as ostrich or rabbit) live in cold storage.
This notion of ‘living’ - where carefully selected food stuffs or consumable substances dwell waiting to be discovered - is a consistent theme throughout this exhibition. Shown by itself in the small gallery, Where Sugar Lives is a coloured pencil drawing of a Coca Cola bottle with a cute wee house nestled inside on its base. Outside above the bottle is hovering another more natural ‘home’ for sugar - a juicy orange.
Where horrid tooth decay germs live, gobbling up your tasty enamel, is also the theme of Austin’s set of four toothbrush usage drawings, the bristly implement bending and straining each time to get into the tricky hidden corners of Austin’s, his loved ones’, or your (the viewer’s) mouth. Austin seems to be fascinated by the springy, rubbery, concertina-like necks of modern toothbrushes, while showing anxiety over plaque’s determined resistance to a good scrub.
As well, where soon-to-be-born babies might live is shown in a pillow /envelope that could be stuffed under a floppy jumper as a pretend pregnancy. An unambiguous message to a distant father it also tangentially alludes to deceitful and ersatz ‘motherhood.’
Continuing this theme, where troublesome colonic conditions thrive is referenced by a painting with thin acrylic on newspaper. Irritable Bowel Syndrone shows a fakir’s bed of nails doubling up as a soon-to-be-planted vegetable garden in the middle of the back lawn. A bit of rudimentary research indicates that for some unfortunate people, delicious, but irksome brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage might wisely be avoided. For your backyard vege patch, Austin seems to be saying, be careful what you plant.
The only piece of sculpture on display, Unfinished Couch, if it were finished, might indicate where various loose coins from your trouser pocket might reside - in the crevice down the back, behind the cushion. However the carving and the painting is clearly not completed, so your change is safe. The polystyrene block is not soft on the buttocks and the paintwork indicates that even if it were, two’s company, three’s a crowd. For a domesticated twosome this furniture is not empathetic to surplus inhabitants. Visitors (even those who bring their own food) are unwelcome.
Soon to be launched with this wonderful exhibition is a publication Austin has made of conversations he has had with art critic and poet Wystan Curnow. This is a unforeseen but very exciting meeting of alert and particularly lively minds, one greatly looked forward to with high anticipation.
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