David Austen's stylistically diverse practice spans painting, sculpture, printmaking and film. Cigarette-smoking moons, trysting couples, elegiac texts and vibrant abstract visions - the elements of his work come together like fragments of a strange and wonderful story, drawing on a wide range of influences from film noir and Greek mythology to absurdist theatre and art history. Austen says: 'My work explores love and yearning, loss and grief, memory and dream and the unreliability of these things’.

Austen's suites of etchings etchings seem like storyboards for these fractured tales, and which in turn have led to the making of works in film. His first, Smoking Moon (shown at both Camden Arts Centre and the British Film Institute) was followed by Crackers, commissioned for his most comprehensive solo exhibition to date at Milton Keynes Gallery (2007), which was subsequently screened at the Locarno Film Festival and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. In 2008 he collaborated with the artist Enzo Cucchi to make a short film in Rome, Man Smoking.

In 2012, Austen's film, The Gorgon's Dream, was premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and his work was selected for the curated film programme at Art Basel Miami Beach 2013. For the 2016 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach Austen presented a solo exhibition, Silence Beach, with Ingleby. UNDERWORLD, a major survey exhibition exploring the breadth of David Austen's artistic practice was presented by Dundee Contemporary Arts in Spring, 2019. The Boys: an Adventure, an exhibition with drawings by David Austen and words by Hisham Matar, was presented at the gallery in 2023, alongside the launch of a new publication which celebrated Austen and Matar's collaboration.