View Tom Thomson through augmented reality at RMG

Photograph by Cassidy McMullen

The Betwixt & Between app being used in the Tom Thomson exhibit

Art lovers can now view Tom Thomson, the famous Canadian painter, in a new way at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG).

Artists Joel Richardson, Germinio Pio Politi, and Nyle Johnston have created a new exhibit, Betwixt & Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story, where they’ve imagined new details of Thomson’s life including a fictitious childhood friend, George Nadjiwon.

For that reason, the exhibit bills itself as ‘85 per cent authentic’. The gallery has displayed 20 real works done by Thomson, along with treaties on the first floor of the exhibit while the imagined portion is on the second floor.

“If you didn’t pick up on that, you’re going to think it’s real,” RMG senior curator, Linda Jansma, says.

This exhibit not only allows you to view Thomson’s work with historical events in mind, especially the treatment of the Indigenous people of Canada, but allows you to view the exhibit with augmented reality.

Augmented reality is a technology that puts a computer-generated image over a real-world object like a painting with a phone or tablet and provides a new view.

“Each time you go into a zone, it gives you an opportunity to scan again and go deeper,” Jansma says.

In this exhibit, after downloading the Betwixt & Between app, gallery visitors can go up to the different zones, scan the icon and enjoy videos, documents and photos. They also have a real canoe, which when used with the app, shows Thomson and Nadjiwon paddling.

“We encountered many difficulties …but that’s part of the process,” says Germinio Pio Politi, one of the co-creators.

The technology is updating and changing every couple months, Pio Politi says, adding it’s difficult to keep up with the changes.

The work on the exhibit started five years ago. They created the app with the help of Wil McReynolds, CEO of Augmented Marketing.

“Everyone is on the apps here,” Pio Politi says. “These (phones) are the new medium.”

 Photograph by Tiago de Oliveira Germinio Pio Politi, one of the creators behind the Tom Thomson exhibit, answers questions about the exhibit.

Photograph by Tiago de Oliveira

Germinio Pio Politi, one of the creators behind the Tom Thomson exhibit, answers questions about the exhibit.


The exhibit originally showed in the Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound over the summer for the 100th anniversary of Thomson’s death.

It’s RMG’s first augmented reality exhibit but they’ve had technology-based exhibits in the past.

The cost of making an augmented reality is one of the reasons this is RMG’s first, Jansma says. although she didn’t speak specifically to the expense of staging the exhibit.

“The mechanics behind some of it are tricky,” Jansma says. “It’s one thing to work for an evening, another for three months.”

Despite the difficulties, RMG is going to have its first original augmented reality exhibit in the spring.

The opening reception for Betwixt & Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story was Feb. 2 and the exhibit will be at RMG until April 15.