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Michael Francis Cartwright:

All materials are equal

6 May 2020 | 24 minutes

After what he describes as a ‘very free’ art education, Australian-born Michael Cartwright first came to Carrara in Italy 35 years ago with his wife Shona Nunan. Michael says ‘the main thing in my life is about creating something the whole time’ and discusses the many mediums he employs.

Michael Francis Cartwright, Cloud Passing Montefegetasi, 2017, statuario white and French red marble

Michael likes drawing, painting, printmaking, working with beautiful red hardwoods and carving marble. He also works with found objects and discarded items, ‘old toys, bits of stick, anything’, and takes them to the local art foundry to get them cast in bronze. Once, he ripped the back off an old truck and used the metal to make a sculpture.

Michael Francis Cartwright, Passage, 1999–2000, bronze, granite, concrete, 5 × 3 × 1.5m, Singapore Expo building

Michael Francis Cartwright, Fish Passing, reclaimed timber, brass rod, blue tiles, granite, gold paint

Michael Francis Cartwright, Owl, found objects: brass bowl, copper pipe, paint, tin from an old truck door

Recent inspiration has been clouds over hills and cliff forms. Michael also speaks of his affection for Australian birds which he draws and paints. He says the sulphur-crested cockatoo, the black-cockatoos with red or yellow plumes, ‘squawk and hang upside down and the farmers hate them. They eat all the rubbers [protecting] the nails on the roofs, the roofs fall off … and they eat all the seeds … but they're the most beautiful birds out.’

Michael Francis Cartwright, Ocean Cliff series, Two Reclining Figures, 2020, Porta Santa Verona marble, paint, 33 × 56 × 19cm

Michael Francis Cartwright, Black-Cockatoo, 2013, pen and ink on paper, 30 × 42cm

Looking up the 'corkscrew' stairwell within the San Martino bell tower. Photo: Giorgio Cespa

In the episode, Michael mentions the bell tower which may bear the mark of Michelangelo’s genius. More of this story in Art is Life.


Producer: Sarah Monk

Sound edit/design: Guy Dowsett

Music: courtesy of

  • Composure, Richard Lacy

  • Malawi Marimbas, Rob Kelly and Duncan Pittock

  • Assimilator 2, Sue Vernon and Paul Ressel

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