Australian artist Anna Carey makes dioramas that leave your childhood masterpieces in the dust.
Her latest exhibition, In Search of Rainbows, is a series of photographed miniature spaces, each based on a colour of the rainbow spectrum. The spaces she creates look as though they’ve been plucked from her afternoon daydreams, when the slowly setting sun fills each window with the last of its magic before tucking itself in for the night. Turns out they look that way because they are just that. When we asked Anna about her process, she said, “I literally need to schedule in daydreaming into my diary, in which I close down the eyes and start imagining spaces.” We also asked about the real life spaces that inspire her fictional ones, her level of patience, and if those miniature fans really work. Spoiler: they do.
When and how did you get into making small-scale models?
The first time I made models was in university for an installation subject. The models were based on houses in Australia that had been demolished. I installed them with lights on the gallery floor and because the houses no longer exist it was like a ghost town. After that installation I wanted to develop my work and concepts, so I started experimenting with photographing the models and the process has continued to evolve since then.
Can you describe your process and how long it takes to design and make a room?
Sometimes spaces take longer than others, but I like to schedule a month for each model so I can change and ‘renovate’ it if it needs it. I just start by daydreaming and imagining spaces. This is very important and I literally need to schedule in daydreaming into my diary, in which I close down the eyes and start imagining spaces. I transfer all of these daydreams to drawings in my diary. From there I make floor plans of the space to scale and start the model. I never usually stick to the original plan; the work grows and evolves as my imagination expands. The work sometimes looks different than I expected and accidents occur but I allow for these alternative routes to be part of the work.
Do the electrics, like the lights and fans, work in the rooms?
Yes, they do work but I chose not to use them because the models were shot in the day. I have worked with lights before in the body of work Twilight. I made the body of work when I was living in Melbourne, a city that does not have much sunlight, so the lights really worked well in that series.
What houses/spaces in real life inspire your designs?
Places that are familiar to me. When I encounter a space—whether it be in reality, film, or photography—a flood of memories and sensations come back into my mind and body. The spaces where I experience this are the places I base my work on. My works are not usually based on one place but a conflation of spaces. I also draw from memory and imagination when making and reimagining spaces. I want the viewer to have this similar experience, therefore I create a fictional space so that the viewer can drift in between memories, reality, and fiction.
What happens to the models after you shoot them?
I keep them for a little while just incase I need them for something but after time I eventually throw them out. For instance, I still have all the models from In Search of Rainbows because I am going to make a video work with them when I get back to Los Angeles. I also reuse parts of the models, for example I may reuse a verandah railing or large pieces of foam core because I don’t like waste. When I know I am finished with them I destroy them. My miniature worlds are like a parallel to the urban environment, always changing. To remember these places we rely on photographs and memory recall. My photographs act in the same way as a memory and moment in time within my practice. This ephemeral process also works for me on a practical level because if I keep the model, it just sits around taking up space, and I don’t like clutter.