Stepping up to their vision of making the arts and culture accessible to all, Tamworth Regional Gallery is thinking outside the box. Following the closure of the gallery in late March to the public, staff have been working closely with artist Rowen Matthews on how best to deliver his exhibition Land is Emotional which was being installed and due to open to the public in March. The solution? Take it online. Gallery and museums director, Bridget Guthrie, said it's inspiring to be able to offer their first online exhibition. "I couldn't be more proud of the team at the gallery who have worked tirelessly with Dr Matthews to deliver the digital exhibition and enable the public to access and engage with this work regardless of the circumstances," she said. Jonathan Stilts, the makerspace and digital learning program coordinator, brought the technology together for the project. "We took a 360° panoramic view of the gallery space, then used the Google Poly system to bring together a virtual tour," he said. "The technology allows you to tilt your phone around as though you're standing in the space – it's incredible." A fully immersive digital experience including an audio narration by the artist himself discussing his work has been created allowing for members of the public to take in the exhibition as though they were on a guided tour of the display. "Art brings people together during difficult times, and this exhibition is no exception. It can be accessed by anyone at any time during self-isolation," Ms Guthrie said. The exhibition explores the phrase "Land is an emotional subject for farmers". For Dr Matthews who resides on the Liverpool Plains, the phrase rings true. "The land openly displays its history and health," he said. "Land speaks with wind and heat and light and colour and so many other voices." In the last three years, Dr Matthews has experienced severe weather conditions and in particular the harshness of the drought. He has portrayed his experience across nine paintings that offer an immersive, site-specific sensory experience, describing the crops, failed crops, black soil and scuttling clouds. " These paintings are a record of the conversation between this place and my survival here," he said. Dr Matthews' Land is Emotional exhibition is available online and can be found on the Tamworth Regional Gallery's website at www.tamworthregionalgallery.com.au.
Rowen Matthews in his studio at Little Kickerbell.