Land is Emotional
I overheard the phrase ‘Land is an emotional subject for farmers’, and I thought, ‘yes, land is emotional’. For me, land is not passive, it responds to me as I paint, it lets me in, allows me to know more, as I immerse myself. It openly displays its history and health. Land speaks with wind and heat and light and colour and texture and so many other voices, and as a result, I experience painting as having a conversation with land, a dialogue, so I can both feel the land and feel the painted mark concurrently. ‘Feelings emerge out of sensory immersion in land, and can be processed as paintings’ (Matthews, PhD Thesis, 2015).
I have lived with a new experience of land on the Liverpool Plains over the past three years, feeling a deeper effect of place than I have previously felt. The harshness of extreme drought and the severe majesty of the land of the Liverpool Plains have altered the way I respond, the way I exist. Tolstoy wrote that the emotive content of a work is able, when the work is successful, to ‘infect’ an audience with an emotive response. Producing work that is in dialogue with the land empowers the work with an intensity that can, for all viewers, promote an emotive response, not just for those members of an audience who have a background in visual art.
The exhibition is composed of a suite of nine paintings about living on the expansive Liverpool Plains during recent severe weather events. The paintings are large enough for the audience to immerse themselves. Standing one meter back from the surface, each painting can take over your field of vision. The exhibition is an immersive, site-specific experience, a sensory installation, using the sensory nature of oil paint together with the voluminous gallery space as a simulation of the expansive texture and space of the Liverpool Plains. The paint is oil-rich, applied with large spatulas that provide large raw, urgent marks that describe crops, failed crops, black soil, grasslands, scuttling clouds, and these marks also embody my physical participation. In this process, these paintings are a record of the conversation between this place and my survival here.
Dr. Rowen Matthews, March 2020
Tamworth Regional Gallery
466 Peel Street Tamworth