Angus Wood: Ghosts of Oblivion

Encounter, Angus Wood, Oil on wood, 2011

Encounter, Angus Wood, Oil on wood, 2011

Contemporary painter, Angus Wood, offers work that blends Romanticism’s horror and awe with an extreme sublimity. His work is characterised by pits of darkness, which allude to a hyper-real realm where the human condition falls prey to the enormity of the natural environment.

In his latest body of work, Wood’s emotive agenda centres on human survivors in a post apocalyptic world who are unable to reconstruct the society they came from. The struggle between man and the wild comes to the fore, enveloped by an unsettling unknown force.

To celebrate Wood’s newest show, Ghosts of Oblivion, ARTIST PROFILE caught up with the artist to talk style, technique, and all things apocalyptic.

Tell me how your latest body of work was conceived, what it’s trying to do and in what fashion you worked.

Ghosts of Oblivion evolved out of the previous body of work [Other Worlds, 2011], which dealt with the figure and the landscape within a framework that merged 19th century Romantic painting and science fiction books and movies.

The previous show invented new worlds in each painting, but the paintings in Ghosts of Oblivion belong to the same world but depict different scenarios within it. All paintings were conceived on the wood panel itself, allowing me free reign in terms of creating spaces and moods.

The evolution of your stylistic agenda has changed dramatically over the years. In 2008-09 with History is Written by the Living and Thought Crimes, we saw portrait-like propaganda paintings. In 2011, with Other Worlds, we saw the human condition centralised through themes of nature and existentialism. How has the evolution of your practice influenced and shaped Ghosts of Oblivion?

The change you speak of happened when I got a job [tattoo artistry], which needed me to make images to specifications for clients. Since my job involved making pictures, I was drawn to question what is so special about painting. I came to the conclusion that what makes painting ‘art’ as opposed to other mundane forms of image making is its capacity for facilitating imaginative play.

The evolution of my work is therefore due to an increased focus on free play of the mind. I think that the more ambiguous and existential themes present most of my shows has been a result of the flow on effect from combining the process of making with that imaginative play.

Expulsion, Angus Wood, Oil on wood, 2011

Expulsion, Angus Wood, Oil on wood, 2011

Commonplace within your practice is the unknown, the desolate, the ominous. As a result there is a stillness, a quietness, a sense of impending doom. Who are the ghosts in this new exhibition and in what realm do they exists?

Ghosts of Oblivion, is above all else, a story of survivors. These works depict a time many years after the decline of civilisation, when the few remaining humans retreat into the wilds, bringing full circle the anthropic journey from Adam in the garden of Eden and back again.

How do these remnants of their species reconcile themselves with the natural world they for so long tried to tame? How feasible is the harmony between Man and Nature? Is there an obtainable balance? Or is there only one winner? In the shadow of great civilisation they wander the Earth like ghosts of oblivion.

What is the relationship between you, the ghosts in your work and viewers? How can we engage with the subjects in the exhibition and to what extent are we reading your characters as fragments of imagination?

Man is like an alien to his environment, variously unsuited to it: he lacks claws, is too hairless, too large to climb. Even his greatest asset: his intelligent resourcefulness is unique and geared towards manipulating his world to be less like it is, and more like he wants it.

I think we city dwellers lack sufficient qualities to truly live harmoniously with nature, and that’s who these ghosts are based on. In nature we find true horror in its beauty and are chastened by its complete indifference towards us. Would we choose to die rather than live in a world where the word human has no higher calling, where the possibility of sophisticated culture is so distant and uncertain it kindles no hope among those left? Or would we persist because it is all we can do, reverting to that ignorant bliss enjoyed by those great many creatures who know nothing of their own morality but only food and procreation.

Wild Fire, Angus Wood, Oil on Wood, 2011

Wild Fire, Angus Wood, Oil on Wood, 2011

Your work is a stylistic paradox. Ghosts of Oblivion offers up emotions of awe, horror, and apprehension – key paradigms of Romanticism – yet subdues them, almost to the point of complete sublimity. In a self-reflexive way, we envisage ourselves, as t he figures in your works in order to further understand purpose, time, and place. Explain.

My ghosts are faced with hopeless situations, unable to manipulate the complex world around them for their betterment. It’s no small wonder we who find our political and physical agency diminishing each month, each year, sympathise with their plight. We feel we know how these ghosts feel.

As an experience I hope the show allows for a period of reflection for the viewer. I hope the viewers fears are echoed through these works and ultimately connects his yearning soul with mine, and perhaps make him feel a little less alone with his bewilderment at the speed and earnestness of the ways in which his species is determined to destroy itself.

Ghosts of Oblivion opens on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at NG Art Gallery 6-8pm. 3 Little Queen Street, Chippendale 2008. (www.ngart.com.au). (02) 9318 2992.

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