- David Austen born 1960
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 1680 × 1520 mm
- Presented by the artist 2013
Blue Shapes 2004 is an oil painting on canvas depicting a variety of round and oval shapes outlined in black on a dark blue background. These organic shapes appear to float and fluctuate on the surface of the canvas like bubbles or cells, yet they remain essentially abstract and resist a narrative interpretation. Austen often pursues several strands of work simultaneously, exploring the different facets of his visual interests at the same time, and switching from figuration to abstraction and from watercolour or gouache to painting, photography or film. He immerses himself in each of these practices and adopts different strategies that lead to very different results. His exercises in abstraction often retain the decorative play of colour against colour, but take their inspiration from specific sources. His influences are broad, from kitsch 1950s curtains and Mesopotamian jewellery to geological formations and spiders’ webs. These are used as a starting point rather than a direct reference; abstracted and reworked they metamorphose into new forms.
Around 1990 Austen produced many works on canvas depicting a single organic form isolated on a pale, monochrome ground. Sometimes recognisably figurative, sometimes wholly abstract, and sometimes between the two, these images are characterised by a formal simplicity that emphasises the sensuous texture of the oil paint from which they are composed. After this time, Austen began to work on a series of paintings on canvas that followed very simple structures and that offered no explanations and no narrative. Their elusive meanings were complemented by an imagery that mixed figurative and abstract motifs. A number of his paintings, such as Two Trees 2002 (Tate T13901), depict broken or barren trees against monochrome backgrounds.
David Austen: Paintings and Works on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry 1997.
David Austen, exhibition catalogue, Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes 2007.
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