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David Austen was born in Harlow, Essex, in 1960. As a student, Austen attended the Maidstone College of Art (in Kent, 1978–1981) and the Royal College of Art (London, 1982–1985) and was a Drawing Fellow at the Wimbledon School of Art (2004–2005) and a Stanley Picker Fellow at Kingston University in 2009. This diverse academic trajectory is reflected in the protean mediums of artistic expression that make up his corpus, which includes his works as a painter, sculptor, printmaker and filmmaker.

As a painter, he focuses on flax canvas, subtle colour work and gouache experimentation on paper surfaces, while also creating etchings that hark back to his experience as a draughtsperson. As a sculptor, he suspends objects which form the backdrops of surreal staged scenarios evocative of 19th century literature creating a bittersweet, psycho-sexual world inhabited by strange and lovelorn characters. As a film maker, he channels his artistic capacities in the art of story boarding, which perhaps explains his success in cinematographic circles. Smoking Moon, his first movie, was screened both at the Camden Arts Centre and the British Film Institute. But the dialogue between his practices can be plurilateral, as shown by his second filmic effort, Crackers, which was commissioned in the context of a comprehensive retrospective of his work at the Milton Keynes Gallery in 2007 before being shown at the Locarno Film Festival and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.

The timeline of Austen’s work reveals the extent to which his artistic interests are continuously intermeshed. In 2009 for example, he curated a solo show – My love I have been digging up my own bones in the garden again – at the Ingleby Gallery, all while being the Stanley Picker Fellow at Kingston University, the fellowship during which he wrote and directed his first feature-length film, End of Love, which would eventually be screened at Modern Art Oxford alongside his solo show Smoke Town, the following year. This mutually supportive system of crossed passions has continued to structure his production flow ever since. This is partly due to the thematic core that links all these mediums together: the artist’s subtle and at times playful self-referentiality and intertextuality. Be it text, image fragment, symbol, film or photography, Austen explores the emotional states, costs and engagements of human relationships. Dark but also endearing, his images impose a pause, a moment of contemplation and reflection.

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