Digital Revolution

By Anna Dowd

Technology is creating new ways for audiences to access, understand and find personal meaning in art – and STILL: National Still Life Award 2021 is leading the charge in our region.

Whether it’s a 3D tour of the gallery, using social media to reach, teach and entertain young people, or showcasing new artistic digital mediums, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery ( CHRG) is embracing tech innovations happening across the art world.

Gallery Curator Chloe Waters says when it comes to new ways of showcasing exhibitions, COVID has of course accelerated the need to embrace creative means of reaching audiences.

“To that end, we’re thrilled to be able to create a 3D tour of the STILL exhibition and the works of our 59 finalists, which will be available in September.

“Even though it’s a virtual tour, it relies on the physical show to be able to map out the experience, take on the space and show how the works speak to each other in a way that is totally different to just reading a catalogue.”

When it comes to being accessible, Waters is particularly excited about CHRG’s collaboration with young Art Historian and social media star Mary McGillivray, an Australian TikToker and visual essayist.

“She applies her art history training in a really funky, engaging way to references in everything from video clips, TV series and other popular culture,” enthuses Waters.

McGillivray’s short visual essays are fresh, funny, smart and more than worth checking out, and the Gallery has partnered with her to develop 10 videos, one released every Sunday, exploring works from the exhibition using an art history lens, picking them apart with a large serving of wit.

She’s informative, but it’s not patronising or elitist, and for Waters, it’s that accessibility that social media platforms and content can provide.

“I think what Mary is doing transcends age groups, but she has a style that resonates particularly with people under 20, and that’s the age group we’d love to see come into the Gallery more.”

CHRG technician Finn Appleton is equally enthusiastic about embracing new technologies and digital platforms to promote the Gallery to a wider audience, and showcase new, multisensory and digital mediums.

“I come from a theatre background, studied at NIDA and did a tech course there,” says the Coffs Coast local.

“Coming back here recently I could really see the potential to use technology, and bring it to the forefront with art and storytelling.

Several pieces in this year’s STILL showcase the relationship between art and tech. #Flowers by young artist Daniel Sherington is a striking example.

“He’s got this image generator inside a scripting program,” says Appleton.“ Every 28 seconds it pumps out an image from printer. It’s such a smart set up.”

The images are of random flowers taken from Instagram, laid over with the artist’s freehand drawn artwork. Each artwork is created on the refreshing of the algorithm and is not a pre-made.

Kylie Spear’s piece Interior also uses technology to create a participatory installation that bends traditional notions of what still life is.

“You sit down in the space encased by black curtains,” Appleton explains. “There’s a single channel video on this screen that really pops out, with headphones that create an ambient zone where you’re encased in the work.”

Appleton says that on returning to the Coffs Coast, he’s been struck by the amount of talented, skilled creatives in the region – an impressive seven of the 59 finalists for this STILL were local artists alone.

“There’s so many different cultures around here, and so much skill and talent. It’s just about having as many platforms as we can to show this creativity and work, and arts in general really.”

Find Mary McGillivray’s videos at tiktok.com/@_theiconoclass\

WHAT STILL: National Still Life Award

WHERE Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery

WHEN Sat 14 Aug – Sat 23 Oct

Image: Interior by Kylie Spear

Spear Kylie - Interior (video still) - 2020