Surrealism and science fiction are particularly visible influences on the work of Sam Austen, whose fantastical and abstract landscapes house indefinable shapes, objects and words. The films lucidly explore a relationship between physicality and transience, referencing early pioneers of abstract cinema such as Len Lye and Oskar Fischinger; their unusual styles and techniques using light and colour are metamorphosed sculpturally in Austen’s films. The dancing abstract patterns and use of fast-paced, jumpy music makes for a surreal and at times unnerving experience in which the narrative is in a continual process of being lost and found.
Angry Film (2010) is a 16mm piece which was shown at the Sunday Painter and The Duchy Gallery in Glasgow. The film blends the sights and sounds of the area surrounding the artist’s studio in Peckham with punchy monosyllabic words that float and overlap each other. The music, composed by Kugan Vijayatharan, is reminiscent of the American experimental jazz musicians of the 1920s, changing tempo and mood franticly. The film flirts with a narrative but attempts to find a moment of transcendence, yet it occupies the viewer’s attention through the seductive landscape or language of advertising. However, the material of film breathes a life and energy into those words, and the power of text itself as a transcendent tool becomes apparent.
Austen has exhibited at the V22, in Young London 2012 and in the V22 Collection show in 2013, as well as in Transition Gallery’s exhibition TVOD; a group show that explored the tension between pop culture and reality. Austen displayed three black and white prints, each depicting a single element, a hand, a hanging sheet, a planet: the former perhaps a signifier into his pre-occupation with objects within environments, floating, travelling, detached yet entwined, things simultaneously moving and frozen.
The work of Sam Austen is a product of the age of velocity and speed of production in the 21st century. His practice reflects this visual overload while attempting to find a harmony. The intensity of his visuals breaks down traditional barriers of time and structure creating abstract and dissolved images, representative of sensations and feelings rather than any figurative image. His most recent film, entitled Hell Screen,details a lexicon of forms that tumble through a highly patterned strobing tunnel. As the speed increases, the shapes dissolve into the backdrop, before finally crashing onto a wet black ground. Images and objects are consumed and discarded, and foreground and background coalesce. The effect is of a threatening and disordered reality, yet framed by a comic strip humour and hair-brained mentality.
Austen graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design (2009). Recent shows include, The Instability of the Image, Paradise Row (2013), V22 collection Show, London (2013), You Aren’t Anything, You Are Everything, The Duchy, Glasgow (2012), TVOD, Transition Gallery, London (2011), Angry Film, The Sunday Painter, London (2010). In 2009, Austen was awarded the ACME Studio Prize Chelsea.