Hailing from Devon, but based out of London, Stuart “Slinkachu” Pantoll takes photographs of tiny figurines that he installs in site-specific settings. In a previous interview with ANIMAL, the artist and photographer said that he sources the miniature characters from model train sets and then customizes them. He recently unveiled an exhibit of new work at London’s Andipa Gallery and agreed to a Q&A.
How did you get the name “Slinkachu”?
The “Slinkachu” name was more of an accident than anything else- it derives from my old nickname at university and was the name I used for signing up to accounts online. By default, it became the name I used when uploading my first images to my blog. Using a pseudonym is handy, though. I would prefer people to think about the characters in my work rather that the person who has done it.
Why did you solely focus on London for this latest exhibit?
My last show and book, Global Model Village, was shot in many different cities around the world and so for this show I wanted to “get back to my roots” and work in London exclusively.
How often do you leave characters out in the field? Do you ever feel bad leaving them behind?
All the pieces are left on the street once I am happy that I have got the right shots of them. Leaving the characters has always been part of my work – in fact, in the beginning, I didn’t even take pictures of all the figures that I was leaving. I don’t feel any attachment to them, though. In fact, I almost enjoy leaving them. It can be cathartic.
How many times do you think London CCTV photographed creating work for your new exhibit?
Given that London has the highest number of CCTV cameras per person of any city in the world, I would estimate almost every time!
Have the authorities ever bugged you about your work?
Not the work itself, but more my shifty appearance while doing the work. I am usually laid out flat on the ground when I am shooting, so I guess the process can look odd. I’ve been approached by a plain-clothed policeman who thought I was sniffing glue (I had out my superglue to stick down the figures) and also twice approached by firemen who wanted to rescue me as they thought I had collapsed in the street.
The artist statement for your new exhibit says that you’re “commenting on modern society’s detachment from nature.” What do you mean by that?
I think we have a love/hate relationship with nature. We want to experience it, but also we want to control and contain it – we want a sanitized version for easy consumption. In this show, all my scenes have an element of fakery, just like our perfectly landscaped city parks. I went looking for little pockets of nature in London, like weeds, leaves and moss to create miniature, hidden “landscapes.” I wanted them to look beautiful up close, but when you pull back from them you realize the reality of the installations and their urban settings – similar to walking out of a city park and suddenly finding yourself amongst the grey, built-up city. I was trying to create a nostalgic, romanticized and almost dream-like representations of nature in some cases.
How long did it take to paint and customize over 200 figures?
For the gallery itself, I created a 2-meter-wide “representation” of the River Thames that features over 200 figures. The characters are arranged to form the outline of the river as it snakes through London and they change depending on their location along the river. For instance, there is a more diverse crowd in East London, and affluent shoppers in the West. In central London there are miniature tourists viewing miniature attractions. Almost all of the figures are customized in some way – it took a very long time to make!
How long did this entire exhibit take to create?
I shot all the images over the past year. I wanted to shoot in different seasons to highlight some of the changes in nature over the course of a year in the city. So I shot one installation in the spring, in a bed of falling blossoms. Another was shot in the winter on a wall covered in ice crystals.
What makes this exhibit so different from your previous ones?
I have focused less on the characters and their stories and more on the environment. I set out in some cases to intentionally shoot “landscapes” using the scrappy weeds of the city. The installations were also planned much more than usual, as I wanted to shoot at the right times of the year in the right weather conditions.
Nature — do we really need it?
We’d be pretty screwed without it.
Tell us something about you that no one knows.
I am training a robin in my tiny London garden to eat out of my hand. I am a little obsessed with small animals.
How hard is it to write graffiti on a leaf like you did in one of your little scenes?
Not too hard if you have a steady hand. The difficulty comes if, like me, you have no skill at graffiti!
Do you use illicit substances to help give you ideas for your installations or is it all natural highs?
No, my body isn’t built for things like that. Even caffeine has a crazy effect on me if I drink more than one cup of coffee a day (inspiration for five minutes and then a day of mood swings and headaches!)
Would you consider yourself more artist than photographer, or more photographer than artist?
I consider myself more of an artist than a photographer, but I don’t really label myself or my work. A photographer is an artist, just as much as an artist can be a photographer. My work has so many different elements – street/urban art, photography, installation, sculpture. And in life in general I am not keen on labels and boxes.
“Miniaturesque,” Slinkachu, Mar 13 – Apr 11, Andipa Gallery, London