“There is a great coffee shop near my house, and I’m working there as a barista. I love coffee, but I love being an artist more.” — Michael McIntyre
When people thought an artist is a distant career that far away from normal lives, across border barista has won the $20,000 major award with his installation artwork. As a part-time artist, Michael McIntyre got the greatest honour in an annually, stunning installation exhibition named “Sculpture at Scenic World”.
By showing 37 artworks from 42 local and international artists in one rainforest, you can walk through the 2.4 km trail – Australia’s longest boardwalk in the Blue Mountains – and immerse yourself while seeing those impressive installation artworks.
Sculpture at Scenic World is one of the most iconic regional sculpture exhibitions in the Australia, and the artwork Michael has got here is called Extinct Markers.
Extinct Markers: a colourful reminder of all those extinct species
Because of the age and geographic isolation, Australia developed a diverse and unique biota with 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals and 45% of birds are endemic.
However, many of these species have disappeared since European invasion: 22 bird, four frogs, one invertebrate, 28 mammals and 37 plants are listed as extinct in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
And Michael’s installation artwork represents the 92 species that have been extinct in Australia.The colours of each marker represent the colour of each animal that has become extinct.
“The installation is a colourful reminder of all those extinct species,” Michael said.
Accompanying the work is a chart so that the viewers can identify the species in the forest. “They can come down, identify the marker on the chart and see the name”, he says. Michael thinks it is a critical topic and there should have someone somehow to bring this subject into the light.
Get inspiration from nature
When Michael came up with an idea to create an artwork for those extinct species, he thought about “colourful circles”.
He confesses that he use the loop a lot in his artwork as a cosmic symbol of wholeness because they represent the shape of the plants, the shape of the sun and the shape of the earth. And the rings in a similar way, they are all circles radiating, so they have a cosmic feel, so they have this holistic value to them.
It was a nice to start with this inspiration, but then Michael stuck for nine months to develop the whole concept. “Things have not progressed until I found the right material to make my disks,” Michael says, “the discs are made from discarded cane and grass woven products, so I wanted to use natural material that was recycled. The cane represents thrown away nature in a way because it is a natural product that has been discarded.”
This is the first time Michael has shown his work in an open space. He said space itself led to the development of his work and the final look of the look.
Get inspiration from people
When Michael was setting the discs up, there were two visiting groups coming past, and he heard a lot of comments: “Oh, they look like targets!”
It was before he put the charts up. So no one knew what the story was yet because they did not know the name of the work on this chart to say what was happing.
But at first, Michael was depressing “oh God, people think they are targets ……”
Then he started to think well that kind of works in the whole story. Because the work introduced species and environmental change in Australia, the animals were targets and have become extinct.
“So they were targets,” he smiled.
“I believe that we can make people reflect on how things have changed,” he said so that people can think about the environmental changes are taking piece everywhere in the world. Another thing he wants to make people think about is the way that the European evasion of the country had changed, the way that Aboriginal people live in this country as well.
So the Extinct Markers are all about raising awareness of the changes. “The colonial empire that has settled in Australia has changed the way the land operates,” he supposes.
So he won the prize, what’s coming next?
The Extinct Markers has been installed just for one month at Sculpture at Scenic World, and this unique pop-up outdoor installation exhibition ran until May 8 unfortunately. “There were so many extraordinary artworks that made you immersing yourself while seeing them,” Jeremy said, “but I am a fan of Michael McIntyre, his works focus on discussing the relations between humanity and nature, and I think they inspire me a lot.”
“It is said that he is collaborating with National Art School and his new work-‘Underwood Ark’ will install soon, can’t wait to see it!” Jeremy said.
So, being an artist is not as difficult as it sounds. There are thousands of “Michaels” around us. They may live as a barista, a cashier or an office man but they choose to be an artist at the same time. In Michael’s word, “to be an artist is no more than a choice”.