Michael Schlitz was born Melbourne 1967. He lives and works in Tasmania.
One of the artist’s first projects waterlines in 1994 involved paddling a small canoe down the Brisbane River to the point that the explorer John Oxley had sailed up to in 1824. Schlitz stated, ‘this was not to retrace the steps of an explorer but to metaphorically meet the past from the present.’ The project, however, looked at explorers, looked at how they view landscape and ultimately how they view nature.
Landscape and nature are intrinsically important to Schlitz. He is based in Tasmania’s Huon Valley, amidst an eclectic community of forestry workers, environmental activists, farmers, and amidst the controversy surrounding clear felling of old growth forests in Tasmania. Over 80 percent of felled trees end up as woodchip to fuel Japanese pulp mills. Seedlings are planted in the deforested areas and native animals attracted by the new seedlings are poisoned.
The artist’s deep involvement with Nature is reflected in the works he creates on the edge of a forest in a log studio built by hand and chainsaw. His work presents a deep psychological questioning about humanity’s relationship with Nature, ‘our embracing, our fear, our nurturing as well as our destruction of it.’ He creates images by negotiating the balance between living sustainably with Nature and the built environment.
Since the mid-2000s the artist’s choice of mediums has been the woodblock and the wood engraving. He cuts powerful images with titles such as, desert flower (2010), architect (2009), progeny (2009) and scream through clenched teeth (2009), inks up the blocks and handprints in dense black on Kozo paper.
The artist respects nature and is passionate about Nature. Of the enormous trees in the old growth forests, already ancient before colonization, he says, ‘imagine 20 people standing on he butt of a felled tree.’
His works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia; many Regional Art Collections, University Art Collections, Special Library Collections; private collections.
Michael Schlitz is the recipient of the 2011 Rick Amor Print Prize.