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Paintings by Angus Wood

Images play a curious role in the creation of history. Put the same picture in front of two people and the interpretations can vary wildly. Witness the furore over recent footage from Tibet; patriotic Chinese 'Netizens' have filled internet chat rooms with allegations of western media bias, in one case forcing CNN into an on-air defence, explaining why Tibetans throwing rocks had been cropped from an image of Chinese riot troops. As time moves on, recorded images become even more crucial to our collective memory but even more difficult to pin down.

As governments change, in subtle ways so too can the national psyche: history is raked over in light of new majority viewpoints, unpopular commentators fall off their golden perches and new ones rise to fill the void. In his exhibition History is written by the living, Angus Wood presents some amusing nostalgic mistruths. Each of his images has an obvious anchor in history but each is an artificial representation of familiar territory. Take Duck and Cover #1 and #2. For children watching instructional footage at the height of the cold war, jumping under your desk to protect yourself from a nuclear attack was bound up with pervading paranoia, patriotism and a real fear that the world was teetering on the edge of oblivion. A generation later, they seem naive and sadly comical.

Wood feeds us some images as scenes on television; a medium that attempts, like the artist, to inject the 'truth' into important events and which has redefined how we record and view history, The television has always levelled out historical footage into entertainment choices - the same screen that brought us men on the moon could be quickly switched to My Favourite Martian. In Still Life (with history being made elsewhere), a bust of Jackie Kennedy, looking strangely like the Virgin Mary, stares beatifically as Ed Sullivan talks to a cow. In Making History, Wood juxtaposes two of the greatest nationalist contrivances of late twentieth century, the red flag of the Soviet bloc and the footage of US astronaut Neil Armstrong on the moon.

The work's title is perhaps a double entendre, referring to the fringe theorists who still muse on whether the whole event was staged in a Hollywood back lot. Or more likely, Wood is drawing on Kennedy's call for the nation to "choose to go to the moon", which was as much a show to defeat the Russians in the making of history, as it was a noble exploration into space. We invest our own history in the things we see. Just as images are a product of their times, so too are they interpreted through the prism of our own experience and perspectives. History is written by the living and Wood shows us how paint and humour can be used to bring this important maxim to the fore.

For further information, please email ng@ngart.com.au

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