For an artist who works on a small scale, Slinkachu is making a big statement. Exhibiting non-stop to a hungry international audience, he is taking London by storm, a few centimetres at a time.
A London-based former art director, Slinkachu is one of a growing number of street artists to produce work on a micro scale. But what makes him stand out is his range of subject matter, which goes from camping and grocery shopping to death and destruction. The point? To express “the loneliness and melancholy of living in a big city”, whilst maintaining a sense of humour. Intrigued and bemused, i-D online took the normal-sized Slinkachu to one side to talk about location, abandonment and how much size matters.
Your ‘Little People Project’ started in 2006. Why did you choose to work with little people rather than normal size or extra large? I didn’t make a conscious decision to work in miniature, although looking back it obviously has its advantages – cost and transportation of the work being two of them! Aside from the themes that I can explore when I work in miniature, there is a spontaneity to it too. I can relatively easily and quickly make figures and installations and leave them on the street. Working on a large scale would not allow this. Also I find it fascinating how people tend to empathise with the miniature figures. Something about their scale creates a natural pathos and a desire to look after them.
You state that you want to encourage city dwellers to be more aware of their surroundings, why is this? I have always left my figures on the street. Once I take photos of the installations, they are ‘abandoned’. Perhaps they will be found by a passer-by, but more than likely they will be lost forever or destroyed. I have always seen this as an analogy to city life; that we walk around wrapped up in our own little world and don’t really pay much attention to what else is going on. Often we purposely ignore the small dramas that play out around us. We ignore the beggars, cross the road when the gang of kids approaches, don’t get involved with the couple arguing outside the club after closing time. And of course, no one pays us much attention either. There is an anonymity and loneliness to city life and I use the miniature people to explore this theme.
Which cities have you placed your work in? Why did you choose this location in particular? I have worked in quite a few cities over the years: Amsterdam, New York, Berlin, Athens and Marrakesh are a few. Although they are all different, I think all cities have similarities especially at ground-level where they often become interchangeable. The themes of the work tend to be pretty universal. People in cities all over the world tend to have similar problems. When I visit somewhere new, I try to look beyond the obvious issues of a country, for instance, the average father in Beijing isn’t worried about the larger issues of net censorship or freedom of the press, they are worried about their children’s exam scores, or how they can get to work on time when the traffic is bad, just like a father in New York or London.
There’s a sense of humour to it, is that intentional? I like to create stories in my installations and photography and I think that humour is a great way to do this. I am attracted to things that are bitter-sweet, that have humour, but are melancholy too. Stuff that has more going on under the surface; Edward Hopper’s paintings, Chris Ware’s graphic novels, Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. I think that life is often like that. There is almost always humour or absurdity in everything that happens to us, however sad or tragic.
Do any of the little figures in your artwork represent anyone in particular? I like to think of each person as a different character with their own story, but they are often almost ciphers. No one in particular, but hopefully people can project their own experiences or feelings on to the characters, or create their own stories for each installation.
When I view miniature art it makes me nostalgic of my childhood ‘Polly Pocket’ toy. Are you familiar with this toy? Have any toys influenced you? I think my sister was probably into Polly Pocket more than me, but I loved small toys when I was younger. Lego, Micro Machines and things like that. I had a train set too, but I hated the trains themselves. I much preferred the miniature figures and houses. There is something fascinating in creating your own scaled down world.
The US White House has a collection of miniature art. Who do you hope collects your miniature art? I don’t often think about who collects my work, although I have met a few people who do. I am more preoccupied with ideas for new work, but it is always nice to know that what you do speaks to some people enough for them to want to put your work up in their house. I tend to get excited when someone who I personally admire takes an interest in my work. The author Neil Gaiman blogged about it once. That was pretty cool.
Finally, do you feel that size matters? It is, of course, what you do with it that counts.
Text: Paris Bennett