15 February 2022

Meet the Canberra artist behind the massive magpie that's about to swoop into Civic

| James Coleman
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Magpie sculpture

The magpie sculpture is currently being finished in Sydney. Photo: Yanni Pounartzi.

The boy was on his way to primary school when he found himself pinned to the ground. Time and again, the aggressive assailant – dressed in black and white and armed with a large sharp weapon – relentlessly tried to strike him. For someone so young, the terror was real.

As far as first impressions go, it’s safe to say Yanni and magpies were not off to a great start.

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Fast forward to today and Yanni Pounartzis is a Canberra-based artist and one of four recipients of the City Renewal Authority’s Placemaking Grants. The $50,000 grant is for ‘big ideas’ and Yanni’s idea is very big.

A life-like but far from life-size sculpture of an Australian magpie is currently being prepared in a studio in Sydney before being transported to its new home in Garema Place in Civic next month.

Magpie sculpture

Realism is the aim. Photo: Yanni Pounartzi.

The sculpture is something Yanni has wanted to do for a long time; the grant was his ticket.

“Magpies are so iconic and so Canberran – everyone has a story with magpies,” he said.

Magpie sculpture

The magpie is expected to land in Garema Place in mid-March. Photo: Yanni Pounartzi.

He designed a small mock-up before approaching highly-skilled sculptors and engineers in Sydney with CVs in movie set design.

“I thought, if I’m going to do this, I have to find the best people. I really want it to be as realistic as possible.”

The magpie sculpture consists of a steel skeleton coated in plaster and welded to a base plate. It will then be coated in resin and painted by scenic artists “to make it as realistic as possible”.


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When it comes to Garema Place in the middle of March, Yanni says it will be in place for a year, with a view to it staying permanently.

Yanni was born in Canberra and moved to Sydney where he became a professional artist after attending the National Art School in 2004. In that time, he developed a distinct style of minimalist abstract paintings with a focus on geometric hard-edged work, painted freehand.

Yanni Pounartzi

Yanni at work at the ticket box at the Carousel outside the Canberra Centre. Photo: Yanni Pounartzi.

In 2014, Yanni spent six months painting in Berlin and was part of a group show at Salon Dahlmann. He returned to Canberra in 2015 and has had three exhibitions, including ‘The Lost Plans’, which was based on the Griffins’ original plan of Canberra.

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His artwork can be found across the city, including at the ticket box by the Carousel outside the Canberra Centre. He also has a mural job coming up with the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) and a painting exhibition next month at the Granger Gallery.

The magpie is the Canberra artist’s first-ever attempt at a sculpture, and he already says it won’t be his last.

Magpie sculpture

Every feather is captured in plaster. Photo: Yanni Pounartzi.

“This is exactly what I wanted to happen. Everything I do is about painting and hard edges, but I wanted to start conceptual works. I’m hoping this sculpture will bring more work in that vein.”

Yanni has already been receiving countless messages of support from the community, including ‘magpie profiles’ on Instagram who are promising to “fly in and take a look”.

“I’m quite overwhelmed by how many people have a fascination with magpies.”

Yanni’s magpies land in Garema Place in Civic in mid-March.

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Now, if can go and fix up the giant peni…. owl at Belconnen

Capital Retro7:02 am 19 Feb 22

I hope they were cage free eggs and Halal bacon with toast being made from 100% renewable electricity that you ate, Samuel G-S.

The Big Magpie! Will it be listed along with the other big things: banana, merino, trout etc?

Capital Retro11:18 am 18 Feb 22

What gender is that bird?

Alice Tay La3:10 pm 21 Feb 22

It’s a male. The males are the ones that swoop.

I would like the magpie to have glowing red eyes at night-time (and maybe a sound system with warbling) to scare the hell out of the drunks in Garema Place. Despite being bailed up by one when I was going to school at Tathra I love magpies. Much to my wife’s displeasure, I feed a small squadron of these black and white spitfires

Capital Retro11:14 am 16 Feb 22

A better choice than a rainbow lorikeet.

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