Where are you from?
I grew up in Mt Martha on the Mornington Peninsula.
Male, female or other?
A former journalist with The Age newspaper. I now work in the fundraising and communications field. Currently working three days a week for a charity in Glen Waverley (ShareTree) as communication manager.
Tinky? Tinky Sonntag? Or Tinkyville?
Tinky is my street art/artist name. (The term Tinkyville relates more to the ‘world’ with which the dioramas live).
What inspired the name?
Tinky was my nickname as a young child, given to me by my parents, after a fascination with Tinkerbell from Peter Pan.
When did you put your first piece on the streets and where?
I actually started with three stencils in 2015. I can’t draw so I used word play instead. The first was ‘blondes have more funds’; the second was ‘fortune favours the bald’ (a play on the old saying ‘fortune favours the bold’); and the third was a stencil of the words ‘Activate Your Awesome Here’ with two footprints. They are very average to look at!! It was my first crack at doing something on the street.
The ‘activate your awesome’ piece was inspired by something I saw in New York the year before. I sprayed it in Rutledge Lane and hung around for a while to see if people would stand on the footprints. I got such a thrill when I saw people standing on it to ‘activate their awesome’ – it was a real buzz to see people interact with it on the street like that and that made me feel good (even though it was a very amateur effort!).
But, the first installation I ever put up was in December 2015. It was of Big Bird being cornered and held up by a bunch of army men. I placed it on a windowsill in the laneway that leads to Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood.
What inspired you to put that first piece up?
I really consider the Big Bird piece to be my first “real” street art piece. It came about in the most bizarre, yet serendipitous way. I woke up one Sunday morning and said to my husband: “We need to go to a trash and treasure market this morning. I have an overwhelming urge to find some toy soldiers. I want to do something funny with them and put it on the street in Collingwood.“ To this day, I’ve no idea why this came into my head so strongly. So we drove to a trash and treasure market in Frankston. I walked in and the first stall I saw had two glass jars filled with vintage toy soldiers for $5 each. I bought them, kept walking around the market, I found a Big Bird with his hands raised, and I said to Karl, “Ok, we have to go to Collingwood now.” We live on the Peninsula, so Collingwood is an hour drive away from where we live. We drove to Collingwood and I knew what I wanted to do, it was just a matter of finding the right spot. I thought that little laneway going to Backwoods Gallery would be a good spot because people would see it. That’s where it started and I really feel like it was meant to be.
Favourite areas to put pieces up? Why there?
I love all of Melbourne’s laneways. One of my favourites is Presgrave Place, for its proliferation and diversity of art. The laneway is teeming with paste-ups, stickers, stencils, photos, and all manner of interesting installations. It’s quite serene for a laneway and there seems to be a lot of pigeon-song, which I like, especially in an urban area. I’ve recently discovered and fallen in love with Guildford Lane, and the two laneways off that – Flanigan Lane and McLean Alley. I love the bluestone buildings and old stables there. That patch is teeming with history and character and I’m a real fan of greenery in the CBD, which Guildford Lane has a lot of.
I love Stevenson Lane behind Section 8 as well. It’s dirty, smelly, grimy, and a great place to install!
Ever been caught by the fuzz? Any consequences (as your work is probably easy to remove on the spot)?
I’ve never been caught by the fuzz, but to be honest, I don’t think they’d be interested in me. The “worst” think I’m doing is applying glue or liquid nails to surfaces. They have a bee in their bonnet about aerosol, so I think I’m pretty safe to play in the laneways.
What made you want to work with miniatures?
I love the idea that you can have an alternate “world” in the heart of any urban environment which isn’t obvious to everyone. Miniature installs can create a sense of surprise and delight for people who are living their day-to-day life in an otherwise grey environment. I like that miniatures are usually only obvious to those who find the installs by chance; or perhaps pointed out on city tours. It’s always a compliment to me when people go searching for them after I’ve posted a photo. I especially love that they make people smile and may bring about a little sense of joy.
Is there any particular message behind your work? Or any of the individual pieces? Or just fun?
I don’t take myself too seriously, so usually any message is one of humour, tongue-in-cheek. There’s always a backstory, or narrative, that goes with each installation which will give the piece context. But the narrative isn’t evident with the piece on the street, it’s only when I post a photo of it, that I include the narrative. In my current exhibition Tinkyville: Land of Folly at Off the Kerb, there are 30 pieces on show, and the title of each piece is actually the narrative. i.e. There’s a piece with a taxidermy duckling in a glass cloche, with a miniature man on a ladder trimming his feathery-down with garden clippers, and a miniature sweeping up the clippings on the ground. The narrative for this piece is: “Sam knew this was going to be his most impressive topiary attempt yet.”
Do you do any other work with paint, stencils, tape or whatever?
Not at the moment.
Have you only put up pieces in Melbourne? Where else?
Mostly Melbourne and also at the awesome Wall to Wall Festival in Benalla. That was a highlight for me earlier this year. It was an honour to be part of it and to have the residents and visitors receive my work so well.
Is there one spot you would love to put a piece up? And why?
YES! My vision is to have a show on the High Line in New York. It’s a really special place – it’s a 2-km long, elevated, linear public park that was once a central rail line on the west side of Manhattan in NYC. Dreaming big, but I’m putting it out there!
What can we expect from you in the future?
A show on the High Line in NYC? Hahahahahaha. I’m already planning my next exhibition and I’d like to introduce more taxidermy with my miniatures; and more skulls. I’m a huge lover of animals, so there’s this confronting dichotomy between their life and death for me, but I like to see it as a way of giving them a new character after they have passed.
Do you have any favourite artists at the moment? Why?
I have SO many favourite artists that it’s difficult to narrow them down. One of my favourite overseas artists is Isaac Cordal. I believes he divides his time between Belgium and Spain, so most of his work is in Europe. He creates the most poignant, miniature, nomadic sculptures and places them in unlikely spaces, like gutters, bus shelters, puddles, etc. They’re magical characters, often in absurd situations, like an accidental death, or standing on a miniature balcony which is fixed to a large urban wall.
Any favourite artists working in Melbourne at the moment? Why?
Again, so many fave Melbourne artists! I love what N2o is doing at the moment with her incredible stencils – especially her rainbow ‘Going Postal’ piece, and her dark but hilarious Nursery Crime series. I adore the hilarious sculptured lips that Gigi is installing around the city, which each feature real hair for a bushy moustache, or poking out of a facial mole. They are so realistic and one of the funniest installations around. I’m a big fan of Facter’s work, especially his dragon murals and his designer resin toys. I love the work of Gnashing Teeth – his neon cockatoos are stunning, as are his colourful paintings that cleverly feature the icecreams and lollies that he grew up with. And of course, Barek – an all-time favourite. His thought-provoking, magical artworks are a standout for me and always have been.
How do you view street art standard in Melbourne? Likes or dislikes about the scene?
I’ve personally found the Melbourne street art scene a very friendly, nurturing one – especially going in to the Ninja Street Art group. We get together regularly as a group to play in the dirty laneways. They are a super-talented bunch of people, with the likes of Akemi Ito, Drasko, Calm, Gigi, Barek, Phoenix, Dnart, NTB, Stampz, and so many other wonderful people. The group was originally formed by Akemi to provide a safe, nurturing space for street artists new to the scene, to encourage and promote their work. I like the inclusive intent around that.
I’m finding that murals are now a big part of what we are seeing on the streets in Melbourne, most of which I really love. Like the mammoth Fintan Magee piece at the end of ACDC Lane – that’s spectacular. I’m not a fan of advertisements being dressed up as random street murals.
There’s less traditional street art around. Personally, I’d love to see more stencils and installations around the city and more humour. People need that! I would really encourage anyone that is considering putting something up, to just head out and do it.
What will the walls in Melbourne look like in 10 years’ time?
I really hope not, but sadly, I think there will be more advertisements on our walls, because money talks. The tourists that visit our beautiful laneways to see the art will most likely be reading ads instead. In only a couple of years, we’ve seen a gorgeous laneway like Duckboard Place – a laneway that was once filled with street art – turn into walls of framed poster advertisements, which has eradicated space for art. Urban development has seen a push for more laneway restaurants and bars, which means that we lost an original Banksy stencil; while other celebrated adorned walls were destroyed. Development will continue, but we can an least revolt against ads by filling walls with street art as much as we can (over the ads, preferably)! We don’t want to lose what we’ve become celebrated for.
Any comments you would like to add?
Not really – thanks for asking me to chat about my work.
My insta handle is @tinkysonntag and Tinkyville: Land of Folly is on at Off the Kerb until 2 Nov.
Thank you very much! 😊