Published July 18, 2016
German environmental concept artist Michael Thomas spent ten beautiful days in the Westfjords building installations with flotsam. The three huge sculptures—the largest almost eight metres long—are now standing proudly on West Iceland soil. They are “Earth Valve,” “Ironbird’s Nest,” and “Spaceship Mitschdóttir”—this last, the biggest, which the artist named after himself.
The aim of these installations is to release the pressure humans create on our planet, Michael claims: “The idea of building installations to Iceland was born three weeks ago in Germany. My wife Angela and her friend spent holidays in Iceland and found places in the Westfjörds with lots of driftwood and flotsam. She called me, sent me photos and prompted me to book a flight. So I arrived with an idea and a bicycle. All expectations were exceeded. It was like coming to the place with nothing and leaving the place with nothing, except some temporary manipulations and a photo documentation thereof,” says Michael, who now must travel back home and abandon the sculptures to their fate.
Michael adds that he really terrifically hard on these sculptures, and feels a bit sad to just leave his three babies here. “I woke up early in the mornings and cycled to the place near Kaldrananes where I was building them. Sometimes it was raining and my muscles were tired of hard work, but I proceeded till the late night,” he says. “But,” he adds, “ I took pictures of them and the process and the meaning of that all is the thing that really matters.“
All around the world
Despite the fact that Icelandic waters are among the cleanest in the world and the country is famous for its unspoiled natural beauty, Michael still found materials, both driftwood and plastic, to use in his installations. “Although my movement radius has been limited here in Iceland, I can say that Icelandic environment looks very pretty and healthy,” he explains. “Except some coast regions where plastic waste in all sizes was washed ashore.”
But flotsam isn’t the only material he builds his installations from: “I use lots of materials usually given to me by fortune. For example, my valve with the most parts consists of ten thousand sustainable Danish ice cream sticks, and the heaviest and largest one is made of iron railway sleepers.” Michael adds that Iceland isn’t the only place where he has released his artistic mind. He started off in Germany and then began to conquer the world. “I have built installations in the USA, Kenya, Dubai, Austria and France. Three continents, Australia, South America and Antarctica, are so far without pressure compensation. All invitations of these regions are welcome.”
It all began with a sandcastle
Though Michael loves to work with materials that nature provides, and to travel the world while building installations and raising people’s environmental awareness, he can’t quit his day job. “Installations are only one part of my conceptual work and painting another,” he admits. “Recently a German art critic called me an ‘aesthetic moralist.’ Well, I’m part of the system because I’m making money with commercial paintings, and scrutinize it simultaneously with installations like ‘Earth Valve,’ ‘Spaceship Mitschdóttir’ and ‘Ironbird’s Nest’.”
But how did it all begin? Michael says he built his first installation from flotsam back in 1974, when he was a little boy. “I was on holidays with my parents in Romania and I decorated my sandcastle with driftwood,” Michael recalls. In Iceland, Michael hasn’t had a chance to go to beach, but he says that he still enjoys summer in this cold country: “It surprises me that here in Iceland summer days are neverending because the sun isn’t going down and the people look into your eyes when they talk to you.”