Rod Moss, Ascension, 2016, synthetic polymers and graphite on Stonehenge. Collection and courtesy of the artist.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or so the saying goes. But eliciting a quick impression is exactly what book covers are for. The same can be said of exhibition titles, and Rod Moss instantly grabbed my attention with his: White Man You are Surrounded.
While this title seems to point to a clichéd B-grade version of the Wild West, the Alice Spring-based artist’s paintings also tap into another pulp fiction aesthetic: the covers of sci-fi paperbacks. In Ascension, 2016, Ross portrays a man watching a car levitate against roiling dark clouds. In Discovering The Gridded City, 2015, a hole dug in red earth reveals a verdant mini-metropolis. Moss highlights the weirdness of a world in which, as he says, two cultures occupy “parallel universes.”
As a white man living in the Northern Territory, Moss is part of settler culture. He is surrounded by country that isn’t his; land that is infused with meanings he has no access to. His kitschy-cool title points to a deep understanding. Moss acknowledges the irony of the fact that despite clearly being an outsider, he nevertheless remains a privileged member of the dominant culture in this country.