Lincoln Austin: Capturing Sculpture - Art Collector

Issue 58, October - December 2011

Lincoln Austin’s sculptures offer up visual conundrums that revel in pattern, geometry and repetition writes Alison Kubler. His latest work is a further puzzle, presenting small sculptures trapped inside bell jars like scientific exhibits there for us to ponder.

The characteristically elegant restraint of Brisbane-based artist Lincoln Austin’s practice belies the significant physical toil required to make it. Sculptural objects ranging from three-dimensional panels of framing matt board or corflute plastic to larger works in fine grids of stainless steel that give shape to thin air, cut and constructed by hand, exact a heavy toll on the artist. In the production of his latest exhibition, Wayward, Austin sliced the tip of his thumb and rendered his fingers so numb from hand-cutting heavy-duty plastic strips that he was forced to down tools. Each exhibition brings with it a litany of wounds as his work becomes increasingly ambitious. It’s a physical price to pay – death by a thousand cuts – and yet this taxing aspect of the work’s construction is not immediately evident but rather quietly implied in the interior complexity of the objects – visual conundrums, they surprise even as they revel in their simplicity.

Austin’s work certainly rewards time spent in contemplation, something that loyal collectors have known for some time. Austin’s work appeals to collectors of sculpture and the artist is accomplished in the public art arena too, having recently completed commissions in Queensland that include St Leo’s College on the University of Queensland campus, Santos Place in Brisbane and a major wall painting informed by his sculptural practice for the newly erected Go Between Bridge. This ability to oscillate between scale ­– domestic and monumental, intimate and public – and medium suggests a professional dedication (or hazard) to extending outside his comfort zone.

By his own admission, Austin is something of an obsessive-compulsive artist, driven to make. In person he is all restrained energy and enthusiasm, his toughened hands itching to get back to the studio, because despite the time consuming hands-on nature of his work, Austin is a prolific artist, a maker par excellence interested in exploring geometry, pattern, systems and repetition and the endless possibilities of materials from craft paper to stainless steel.

Wayward is evidence of an evolving new direction in his work. The exhibition includes a series of smaller sculptural works encased inside glass domes that are one part Victorian wunderkammer and one part abstracted algorithm. Constructed from materials as diverse as beech plywood, cedar, stainless steel, glass, nails, copper, plaster and polyester thread, Austin’s seemingly captured sculptures extend the definition of the genre. They are objects to be marvelled at, if only for their intricacy and subtlety, and demand an intimate audience.

Indeed, it’s difficult to avoid superlatives to describe Austin’s work for it is frequently beautiful – colourful, shiny, witty and wondrous. This is not something the artist shuns. “I’m not a cynic. Art for me is affirmative. I love art. I love making art,” he says. “I hope that my intention can be read in what I make. I want the work to be enjoyed and for people to take pleasure in what I take pleasure in.”

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