A leaky-roofed garage in Cape Town, filled to the brim with old household electronics, broken childhood toys and flea-market oddities is where you’ll find artist Flagg at work. Here she gives new voice to found objects through her magical handmade dioramas. Flagg describes herself as always having had a “weakness for the humorous and macabre” and you’re sure to find both elements in her unconventional new worlds – have a look!
Flagg encountered her first diorama at the age of four. The small white poodle in a glass house was a relic from her mother’s childhood. About her fascination with dioramas she says,
I fell in love with the concept of “looking in”. In retrospect my interest in the diorama could have been fueled by pure frustration of not being able to actually get to the poodle, though as I got older I started to realise that even though the scene behind the glass never changed, my feeling towards the object often did. That’s what I love about dioramas. They are timeless, static scenes that change with our moods and that are brought to life by the power of our imaginations.
Flagg created her first (quite rustic) diorama on the morning of her very first exhibition. Although the exhibition was of her illustrations and prints, it was the new diorama that excited her most and she’s been addicted to making them ever since.
“There’s something liberating about taking an object that you would usually just vacuum up off the living-room floor and making it the centre of attention,” says Flagg who builds her dioramas by repurposing whatever she can find lying around in her studio or the bottom of her drawers. The new worlds take form inside old discarded objects and, more recently, hand made boxes. Flagg gives herself creative freedom. Her final works depend on her mood and whatever objects are in the vicinity. This makes for excitement, surprise and less inhibiting expectations when it comes to the final product.
About what inspires her, Flagg says, “My initial inspiration for a diorama often comes from something that someone has said to me in casual conversation. I find that people are a great, untapped well of ridiculous one-liners.” The angles, colours and clumsiness of 70s and 80s design, as well as her considerable plastic figurine collection, are also sources of constant inspiration.
The dioramas became functional pieces when Flagg started to add wiring and lights. The new shadows and highlights created by the light strips lend three dimensionality to the scenes. “Since I felt so ‘locked out’ of that first diorama that my mom had given me, I have created a way for the viewer to assert their presence by turning my dioramas into functional art pieces,” says Flagg.
If you are as charmed as we are by Flagg’s miniature worlds, be sure to look out for her upcoming projects: she is working on large sculptures for an experimental dance project that will debut at Infecting The City in Cape Town in March. The sculptures are a development of the work she did for The Line & Light Dance Collective in 2014 when she was commissioned to create objects that will challenge the movement of both the dancers and their audience. More large dioramas are also in the works and will be displayed at a KIN launch in April.