Michael Schlitz is a Tasmanian printmaker, who lives in the Huon Valley. He studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the University of Southern Queensland, and a Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) and Master of Fine Art at the Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania.
Schlitz is an artist whose lifestyle, practice and artworks each sensitively engage with ideas about our relationship with nature. As with many Tasmanian artists held in the DCC Permanent Collection, Schlitz explores the natural environment through his work, however his approach is distinctly holistic. The artist lives and works in relative seclusion, and often without luxuries such as electricity and running water, and the influence of this sustainable, low impact lifestyle is evident in his work.
Through his prints, Schlitz engages with the emotions humans experience in nature, particularly in isolation. These range from our psychological connections with our natural surrounds, as places of quiet contemplation and revelation; our tentative wariness of untamed landscapes; and our continual, communal disregard for the fragility of nature and the impact we have upon its systems. In this way, Schlitz’s work is both highly personal, and politically significant.
The lone, secluded figure is often the subject of Schlitz’s works, including Explore the Sea II 1998-99, held in the DCC Permanent Collection. In this work, the figure is only partially visible. He leans forward, his stance emulating the exploration referred to in the title, which also gives the only other hint as to his surroundings. The image is separated into two halves, which are placed out of alignment, leaving the figure disjointed. He is also only partially visible, most significantly his head remaining outside of the frame, placing the viewer at a voyeuristic distance from this explorer’s scene.
The thick, black outline of the figure in this work, along with the simplistic form and muted colours, reflect Schlitz’s distinctive style. His works have a raw quality that is echoed in the artist’s relief woodblock printing process. Schlitz prints by hand, and often on a large scale. He draws his forms on to the woodblock with a water based ink, before gouging a series of parallel lines across the surface of the block, using only a v-gouge as a tool. This process gives the image a unique textured appearance with a breadth of tones, rather than placing a distinct emphasis on positive and negative spaces.
Schlitz has discussed the complexity that can come from working simply, and how it can be difficult to reduce an idea to a simplistic form; a philosophy which he applies both to the composition of his works and his printmaking process. Schlitz has also referred to this process as being a meditative experience, and viewing and contemplating his works can elicit a similar response in viewers.
-Erin Wilson, Curator