548 West, New YorkMay 9 - 12, 2024

A Small World of Wonders

From dollhouses to miniature dioramas, the creation of new worlds has never failed to capture popular imagination. Even today, modern artists continue to explore the fascination that we have for tiny worlds. This week, FOCUS features Japanese artist Tanaka Tatsuya - a miniature artist who recreates daily scenes using tiny figurines. Through his artwork, the reader is exposed to a whole new world - a diorama of our own lives reimagined.

“Everyone must have had thoughts like these before: broccoli and parsley may sometimes look like a forest of trees, and tree leaves floating on the surface of water may sometimes look like little boats.” --- Tanaka Tatsuya

A family picnicking under the shade of broccoli trees is hardly a scene one might encounter in real life - but is, on the other hand, an ordinary occurrence in the world of Tatsuya. On his website, Tatsuya states that he draws inspiration from his childhood, where he would daydream about the imagined purposes of every-day necessities. Indeed, the Japanese artist’s miniature creations are overloaded with the presence of various foods. From baguettes serving as trains, onto which passengers are waiting to board, to pumpkin slices serving as a stage for an orchestra, the use of different foods emphasises the minuscule sizes of the human figures. While for us, food is easily perishable, the bread, vegetables, and fruits that appear in Tatsuya’s works are given a much more important purpose: forming the foundations of his very world.

Not only does Tatsuya work with different foods, he furthermore transforms how we perceive mundane objects that can be found in our own households. The Japanese artist often features brushes in his works, which take on different meanings and different disguises. In one artwork, an upside-down brush becomes a field of wheat in which a horse is depicted to be grazing. In another, the thistles of the brush is portrayed as trickling water in which miniature figures are taking a shower. Indeed, Tatsuya plays with the possibilities of texture and draws similarities to ordinary scenes that are familiar to us.

Tatsuya further immerses the viewer into his miniature universe throughout his various exhibitions. During the ‘Miniature Life Exhibition’ (2017) which took place in Taiwan, the bench area became an enlarged version of his broccoli artwork. Reminiscent of a scene from ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, the viewers found themselves transformed into the tiny figurines, and were able to rest under a towering broccoli tree before they continued to navigate the exhibition. Likewise, to emphasise his theme of ‘day-to-day life’, the artist also presents his different artworks in the form of a virtual calendar. On his website, aptly named ‘MINIATURE CALENDAR’, Tatsuya creates a calendar page, where each day of the year is represented by a photograph of one of his creations. There, users are able to browse through the archives of previous artworks but also anticipate the ones that are yet to come.

Written by Rose Wei