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Daryl Austin


“Richly detailed and highly personal, exuding a sense of stillness, Daryl Austin’s realist paintings quietly, yet resoundingly articulate the world of the painter... Austin directs the viewer into the nucleus of the painter’s studio, selectively framing his pictures within a picture, as little is revealed and much concealed...”

(excerpt from “Daryl Austin” by Wendy Walker, 2004)

Works chronology  
Miscellaneous Still Point Paintings 1998 Miscellaneous2000 HereThen NatureMorte OurGrace CircaEuropa  
Blink Blink 2016fictions
Daryl Austin: Fictions by Wendy Walker, 2014

The element of surprise often plays an intriguing part in the work of Daryl Austin. Who can forget the extraordinary series of naked portraits of regulars from his local pub the Grace Emily in his 2008 exhibition at Greenaway Art Gallery. These slightly larger than life-sized, colour paintings were followed in 2009 by the tiny charcoal and pencil works on paper of Europa. The most recent strand of his practice – first unveiled in last year’s Fictions – involves, to use his words; ' a collusive collision and fusion of painterly and photographic imagery. These works question our faith in the veracity of both the painted portrait and photography. Faces are reconfigured and recomposed, backgrounds shift, landscapes and objects appear or fade away.’

In such a way, Austin not only reworks, but also reanimates his historical photographic imagery – a kind of repurposing – supplying the works with fictional locations. The paintings are full of skewed details and disconcertingly the subjects’ eyes (sometimes mismatched, like their clothing) confront the gaze of the viewer.
In an interesting twist, not anticipated by the artist (it was Austin's turn to be surprised), viewers have projected their own narratives onto the images, telling him their connection with the places or people supposedly depicted. Austin says that with the paintings 'I got the feeling I wanted; a strange and sad disquiet, a sweet creepiness.'

Wendy Walker, May 2014

Our Grace, An exhibition of recent paintings by Daryl Austin, 2008

About three years ago I was more aware of how engaged I would be in the act of painting, if I was painting a portrait. I decided to paint some figurative work independent of the constraints of the formal or commissioned portrait. All seven of the paintings currently on show are portraits of people who are regulars at my local, the Grace Emily Hotel. Thank you all for your generosity and bravery, it has been a fascinating collaboration.

By 2007 I had worked my way towards a closer understanding of how I was trying to paint these works. All the people I was painting were depicted at a scale which was slightly larger than life. Most people have an instinctive understanding of their own scale in relation to others and any shift in this perception is immediately noticeable. The shape of the canvas was dictated by the stance of the sitter and was cropped close to the figure which creates both a sense that the figure is dominating the pictorial space and the distance which separates a viewer is narrowed. All paintings have a similar, relatively minimal background although all are varied; once again the focus is on the person who is being painted. The way I painted these works required me to subtly alter my technique, the handling of paint is lighter and looser, and the paint is much thinner and has a matt finish. As I am painting I am drawing with paint much more, shifting lines, making marks, depicting textures & making structural connections, leaving much more evidence of the making of the painting creating a much more open and adaptable surface.

Asked for a description of my current work I’d say that they were large scale portraits of people I know, who are naked. I don’t really like the term “Nude”, it is too generic and whilst it may be succinct seems less apt. I wanted these works to be fairly straightforward, naturalistic and direct. When I use the word naked I do not mean to suggest abjection at all. I see it as a way of portraying the personal history that the “Nude” has tended to erase. This includes tan lines, tattoos, injuries and scars, body hair, piercings, the difference between a sunburnt forearm and pale torso even to the temporary markings made by underwear on the skin or shadows cast across the body. Where the “Nude” seeks to create the universal I prefer the specific.

Less specific and infinitely more intriguing were the private and public aspects that took place during our collaborations. All sitters are mature adults with a sense of their own self-image and place in the world. I needed to balance this view with my own perception of them and the requirements of the painting, these works should be thought of as having been painted with empathy tempered by practicality, they are after all my friends. As such the genesis of these works fundamentally belongs to portraiture.

Daryl Austin
September 2008

Nature Mort / Peintre Mort by Daryl Austin, 2006

"Nature Morte / Peintre Mort" continues an evolving dialogue within a cycle of works begun a decade previously. These works, centred within the painter’s studio would seem to broadly fit into the genre of 'Still-life painting'.
Yet, it is with me always the qualification 'would seem to.. .' where much of my subject resides. A sort of grey zone where canvases are reversed, viewers find themselves before the painters' easel & painting tools metamorphose into stranger forms.

I seek to make works which may be at times reflective, philosophically speculative, perverse & paradoxical, intellectual & intuitive, in mood wry, quiet & melancholic.

I paint them with a spare spiky kind of clarity which has its own beauty, engaging the viewer quite directly at times but for the most part allowing the works to slowly unfold.

Daryl Austin
September 06

Daryl Austin by Wendy Walker, 2004

'Painting can be a conversation with oneself and at the same time, it can be a conversation with other paintings. What one does, triggers thoughts of what others have done or might do...This introduces a degree of play between the possible and the necessary, which can allow one to learn from other artists' work that might seem otherwise unrelated or irrelevant.' 1
Richly detailed and highly personal, exuding a sense of stillness, Daryl Austin's realist paintings quietly, yet resoundingly articulate the world of the painter. Eschewing the illusion of real space which characterised the Studio Paintings series of 1998, in the shallow pictorial space of this new body of work, Austin directs the viewer into the nucleus of the painter's studio, selectively framing his pictures within a picture, as little is revealed and much concealed.

In a 1996 interview, Richard Serra described Jasper Johns (and his work) as 'a feast of colliding thoughts, a huge continual, revolving process, picking up the pieces and dovetailing as it moves along...a person who hasn't closed the sequence.'2 Similarly, Austin has yet to 'close the sequence' and this latest body of work continues an enduring and evolving dialogue - resonant with art-historical references - concerning the act, the condition of painting.

Etched with the legend 'heart to hand' and 'eye to mind,' Painter's Credo - a pair of antique spectacles from Austin's 2003 solo exhibition Here then, now there - provides an insight into the contrary impulses of reason and emotion that are central to his narrative. This duality is succinctly encapsulated in the work Painting Fetish/Self Portrait, wherein the artist is glimpsed in sober reflection and the artist's palette is bestrewn with hair in lieu of paint. In his idiosyncratic world of paradoxes and perversities, a painting, which is already hidden is further swathed with camouflage netting, an assortment of spectacles intended to facilitate sight is secreted at the back of a picture frame, a representation of a leafy shadow enigmatically appears on a reversed painting and any illusion of logical progression has been expunged from (deconstructed) sections of measuring tape.

Austin's work is deliberated, measured, calculated. However, in a reversal of this sublimation of emotion, possibly signified by the disruption of sequential measurement in his realigned tape measures, there emerges in the work of the last two years a growing viscerality, apparent in the accelerating profusion of nails, the strands of human hair, the advancing/creeping weeds. It is underscored by an emphasis on process, exemplified by the inclusion of the palette, the paintbrushes, the tools of the painter's trade. Significantly, Austin's ever-emblematic spectacles are now sequestered at the rear of the picture frame.

'Hairiness' observes Marina Warner, 'indicates animal nature: it is the distinctive sign of the wilderness and its inhabitants, and bears the freight of Judaeo-Christian ambivalence about the place of instinct and nature, fertility and sexuality.'3 In many cultures a source of magic power or mana, the potency of hair becomes intensified when it is removed from the head (Painting Fetish/Hair Palette) in the form of fetishistic hair tokens or memento mori.

With a deft and witty deployment of twists and inversions and trompe l'oeil effects, Austin says that he strives for a 'casual clarity' and a 'matter of fact realism.' The pristine and carefully positioned nails of Painting Fetish #2 (2003) make way in this latest body of work for a proliferation of nails which - like the marked and pitted easels - betray the ravages of time. Indicating a darker, more driven aspect to the life of an artist, the palette/object of Painting Fetish /Nail Palette (2004) has unequivocally become a bed of nails.

A quality of abandonment pervades these works, as the tendrils of ivy in Easel Fetish/Nature Morte begin to obscure the name of the artist, as well as the easel on which it is inscribed. Furthermore, a sense that the paraphernalia of the painter - the easel, brushes, stretchers and palette - may be assuming the fossil-like quality of a relic, a memento mori is reinforced by the work Peintre Mort, in which paintbrushes wrapped in rabbit fur - inevitably recalling Chardin - rest with a solemn and eloquent finality on an empty frame that allusively bristles with nails.

Wendy Walker, August 2004

Jasper Johns, quoted in Ann Hindry, 'Conversation with Jasper Johns,' Artstudio, Paris, 1989, no. 12, p.13
Kirk Varnedoe, Jasper Johns, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1996: p.111
Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde, London: Random House, 1995: p.359

· Daryl Austin: Fictions, by Wendy Walker, 2014
[essays should not be reproduced without permission from the authors]
1964 Born Lincoln, England Daryl Austin
1983-86 BA (Visual Arts) University of SA
1987-92 Member of South Australian Workshop
1988-9 Worked for the South Australian Museum
1991 Granted Residency at the Fremantle Arts Foundation
1996 Study tour of Europe / EVA Award
2001- Painting lecturer, Adelaide Central School of Art & University of South Australia
2006- Head of Painting , Adelaide Central  School of Art     
2010 Panel Member, Arts SA VACD Board
  Currently lives and works in Adelaide, South Australia
2016 Fictions 2016, GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide
2013 Fictions 2013, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2012 Blink, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2009 Circa Europa, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2008 Our Grace, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2006 Nature Mort / Peintre Mort, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2004 Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney

Here then, now there, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide


New Works, Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney

2000 Daryl Austin, Greenaway Art Gallery
1998 Still-point Studio Paintings, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
1996 Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
1994 Daryl Austin, Greenaway Art Gallery

Daryl Austin, Greenaway Art Gallery

1991 Chance, Choice, Artifice and Repetition, Fremantle Arts
Foundation Residential Studio, Fremantle
Recent Works, Chesser Gallery, Adelaide
1989 Recent Works, Club Foote Gallery, Adelaide
2013 Salon des Refuses, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2012 NVisage, Adelaide Central school of art Gallery

Doug Moran National portrait prize, National tour
Salon des refuses. S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney


One off, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
Alice Bale Art Prize, Glen Eira Council Gallery, Melbourne

2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, National Tour
2008 Alice Bale Art Award, Glen Eira Council Gallery, Melbourne
2006 Alice Bale Art Award, Glen Eira City Gallery, Melbourne
2004 Drawing Today, Adelaide & Country SA

A Small Private Eye, Touring Country Victoria & NSW
Whyalla Art Prize Exhibition, Middleback Theatre , Whyalla

2002 Whyalla Art Prize Exhibition, Middleback Theatre , Whyalla
2001 7Up, Studio 91b, Adelaide
Alice Bale Art Award, Glen Eira City Gallery, Melbourne
2000-1 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, National Touring Exhibition
2000 Chemistry: Art in South Australia 1990 –2000 , Art Gallery of South Australia
1998 ACAF 6,Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Salon des Refuses, S H Irving Gallery, Sydney
1997 Whyalla Art Prize Exhibition, Middleback Theatre , Whyalla
1995 Emerging Visual Arts Award (EVA), Adelaide
1993 Moet & Chandon finalist, National Touring Exhibition
1992 2nd Adelaide Biennial, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
1991 Customs House 3, Fremantle Arts Centre Gallery, Fremantle
1990 SAW, North Adelaide School of Art Gallery
3 in August, Club Foote Gallery, Adelaide
1989 New Adelaide Painters, East End Gallery, Adelaide
1987 4 painters, Wharf Shed #1, Port Adelaide
1986 Under-Exposed, SACAE Gallery, Adelaide
2010 Trinity College, South Australia, Portrait Commission
2005 Parliament of South Australia- President of Legislative Council Portrait commission
2003 University of Adelaide – Vice Chancellor Portrait Commission
2002 Winner City of Whyalla Art Prize
1997 Winner Santos Whyalla Art Prize
1993 Winner Kernewek Lowender Art Prize
Winner EVA Award, Adelaide
Art Gallery of South Australia
University of Adelaide
Australian Taxation Office
Clayton & Utz Law offices, Sydney
Legislative Council, Parliament of South Australia