Michael speaks with Sarah Monk from podcast, Materially Speaking.
Sarah has been interviewing many of the artists in Pietrasanta, collecting their stories of inspiration, their artistic histories, working processes and philosophies.
Today she found Michael walking down from the grand old olive grove of Rocca di Sala above the city where on a clear day you can see Pisa to the left and Corsica floating in the Mediterranean straight ahead.
Michael talks about his early influences, his approach to materials and offers some simple advice to young artists.
‘Reclining Cliff Figure’ 2020 Calacatta Rosato marble from the Apuan mountains, Italy. My sculptures are often informed from my paintings and of course that goes the other way too, like all good relationships. This reclining cliff arrived from Northern France.
I was drawn to this famous coast of Étretat, France, because of the Australian Impressionist painter, John Peter Russel. My father introduced me to his work when I was young, he was offered as an example of freedom not only in his brushwork but more importantly his powerful use of colour. I was not expecting it to also influence my sculpture in the series of Reclining figures.
In my studio during the Covid lockdown. Some paintings from Étretat and two new clay sculptures, (for bronze) including ‘The Nose’ inspired by Nicolai Gogol’s short story, and some older works, ‘A Waltz in the Bush’ from found materials including parts of a violin and ‘The Rider’, painted plaster. In the foreground a new sculpture for my polished bronze series.
‘Moon Dance’ is the celebration of life. We have gazed into the night skies, into the universe, since we first walked the earth. A time when we had an intimate connection, respect and awe of the dense sky at night, its stars its spirits, the moon, the auroras, the shooting stars, the massive beings mapped by those stars, the stories created and passed on and on. In our perfect simplicity we were one with nature, the earth, the lands we lived in and the universe we looked up to. Moon Dance is cast in bronze at Versiliese foundry in Pietrasanta. It is in an edition of three. Edition 1 of 3 was first exhibited in the ‘Journeys’ exhibition at Australia House, London and was then donated to the village of Correns, France.
Cloud Resting in a Field of Poppies’. Part of the landscape series. This is a tiny sculpture cast in solid sterling silver and a bronze hill handprinted in oil color. I was introduced to a very tiny foundry in Oxon in the UK. It was like finding another material, an addition to my pallet, so I played with it.
Two views of my ‘Sunrise on snow covered hill’ from my landscape series. Pink Onyx on white Statuario marble. The cloud is able to be turned by the viewer. In search of material while we were in Pietrasanta early this year I walked into the Galleotti family marble studios right in the centre of the town to search their stack and found lovely off cuts of this amazing pink Onyx – I had to try it.
Water Study is also a study in meditation. It is a large painting so there is a feeling of a peaceful immersion, as if you could step into it.
‘Fishing over Uluru’, (Ayers Rock) -approx. 2.5 meters tall. It is a story of the fishermen netting the stars, our dreams in the night sky over the great Central Rock of Australia. This is the first one cast in an edition of 3 and stands in a beautiful private sculpture garden overlooking the bay of Melbourne, Australia.
From my ‘Cocky series’, this Yellow Crested Cocky was painted during the last bush fire season in Australia, flying through the smoke of a burning landscape.
Sitting in front of my painting for Capital M Beijing restaurant in Tiananmen square, Beijing, 2008. The painting was commissioned to stretch along the spinal wall of the restaurant. I took it on like a sculpture, it became three dimensional, wrapping around corners, down a small flight of stairs and over sliding doors. It is about the journey down the river to the open sea. The restaurant is now closed and the painting has been moved and installed into the newly renovated M on the Bund, Shanghai. Original dimensions: varying heights 1.2 – 2.5 meters by about 50 meters long.
This is the first night in our new home in the village of Ortonovo above Carrara, 1984. We arrived at Carrara railway station, looking up to the mountains we were not sure if we were looking at marble or snow, it was winter, but it was marble, mountains of it! Carrara is just up the coast from Pietrasanta.
Carving with my two boys Jacob and Sollai at Shakti studios, Pietrasanta.
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