matthew Tome

What is about Oppenheimer’s Chair that intrigued you so deeply to create an entire exhibition based around it?

Oppenheimer’s Chair is an exhibit at the Bradbury Science Museum of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I visited the site in 2015 while touring parts of the USA. Firstly I was surprised to see a chair in a museum about the development of the atomic bomb. I read further on Oppenheimer’s biography, the development of the bomb and became absorbed in the work of the physicists.

The physicists, while technically and mathematically supreme, were also creative and playful and the development of physics was one of imagination, speculation and intuition.

I knew that there were images and ideas in those stories that I wanted to make art about.

Tell us about the many different art techniques in this exhibition.

Firstly there are etchings. They are all done with zinc plate and use line and aquatint and they are printed as multi-plate colour prints, mostly with two, but sometime three plates.

I have also woven a Navajo style fancy saddle rug. I used a traditional method of weaving that is much like a tapestry weaving or a kilim, and used my own imagery to represent the aspects of the physics and bomb development at Los Alamos, which was Pueblo and Navajo land.

Also there is a sculpture of a chair. Made of pine and steel and roughly carved by hand and painted.

When and where did you first start exhibiting?

My first major solo show was in 1987. It was a drawing installation at First Draft Gallery in Sydney at the original location. My work has been centred on drawing and painting but I also make prints, objects, installation and whatever the ideas that I have drive me to make.

What is your advice to emerging artists?

Develop your discipline and work habits. This can be hard because many people won’t recognise your art as ‘work’.However you also need a good routine to work on your art regularly. Use the chance to get to residencies and to travel to help develop your understanding of art and different cultures. Keep up your friendships with other artists, particularly those who support your work and help you develop. Collaborate and exhibit.

Where can we see more of your work?

My website is I regularly show in Newcastle with Art Systems Wickham, Gallery 139 and other Newcastle spaces. There are collections with my work and there is a list of these on my website.

~ interview by Ahn Wells May 2016

Matthew Tome's exhibition is on now at Art Systems Wickham until Sunday 29 May.