By Stan Alcorn
For years, a 33-year-old London artist known only as Slinkachu has been jotting down ideas in his sketchbook and then turning them into trash. "For instance I was sketching hot air balloons made of various pieces of litter for ages," he told me by email, "until I finally hit on the idea to make them from McDonald's take away bags and ketchup trays."
The artworks he makes for his "Little People" take this trash and turn it into a landscape confronting tiny, realistic human figures. A tennis ball becomes an island, a shoelace becomes a sea monster, a dead bee becomes freshly killed game.
"Most people only see the installations through my photography," Slinkachu says. "(The little people being long since 'lost' on the street!)" The installations present the same scene at different scales, zooming out until the surreal but lifelike scene becomes a tiny detail, lost in an otherwise unremarkable landscape.
That landscape is actually the final ingredient; he comes up with his ideas separately, and then finds place to stage them, often while traveling. Slinkachu says this brings the greatest surprises, but also poses challenges. "If it is raining, the figures won't glue down!" he says. "That can sometimes be hard and a race against time."
For most of his works, his aim is simple: "I hope that the images can tell small stories and resonate with people," Slinkachu says. "Connect with their own experiences of life in big cities and of being lost and alone at certain times." But some carry a more political message. His image "Balancing Act," staged at the Khayelitsha township in South Africa was designed to raise awareness and money for HIV treatment.
Slinkachu says his images get different reactions from different audiences: "For children, who might miss the undertones of an image, there is the magic of a miniature world that might exist unseen around them."
As for what's next, he's thinking about branching out beyond the injection-molded plastic figures from Preiser that he usually purchases and paints. "At the moment I am interested in exploring new ways to approach the making of the figures, rather than the ideas themselves."
His images are available for purchase through the Andipa Gallery in London and his latest book, Global Model Village: The International Street Art of Slinkachu, was published at the end of last year.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.