Flagg’s whimsical yet macabre creations are born out of play
Posted: 13 September 2017
Flagg is a self-taught sculpture and diorama artist hailing from South Africa. With studios in both Amsterdam and Cape Town, her playful yet macabre creations are making their way around the world. With themes of childhood, memory and play, Flagg uses moulded plastic toys and action figures in her artworks to represent nostalgia. Elements of play are brought in with interactive additions such as toggles and buttons. Since collaborating with Dutch design studio Studio Hamerhaai, she has been focusing more on sculptures – or as she calls it 'toy taxidermy' – that are a visual representation of her dyslexia. We chatted to Flagg about her almost apocalyptic work. When did you create your first diorama? On the day before my first exhibition opening. Making dioramas had been something that had been simmering in the back of my mind for what seemed like a lifetime but, at that stage, I didn’t even know I was creating one. It was a small handmade wooden box that contained a forest scene with a dinosaur and a speech bubble reading ‘sugary drinks are for weekends only’. It was rustic-looking and cumbersome to make, but I was instantly more interested in that piece than any of the other work I’d created up until that point. Where does your love from vintage electronics come from? I grew up in a house with a much older brother and a father who were both very into their electronics. From old tube amplifiers and ham 2-way radios to oscilloscopes, there was always something being taken apart and put back together in the home. As soon as something was beyond repair, I was allowed to play with it, and that’s when I first started to fall in love with ‘looking into’ things. Tell us about your use of action figures and plastic dinosaurs in particular… Being able to use toys in my work is a big drawcard for me. I can truly say that I am just as interested in interacting with them now as I was when younger, only now it’s in a very different way. That sense of imagination and play is something I hold dear, even though we are encouraged to lose that a bit as we get older. I feel that by incorporating toys and action figures into my work, I get to pay tribute to these things as well as bring them with me into my adult life. What are some of the things that influence and inspire you? I love an underdog, a tragic story and a cat that doesn’t love you back. I’m dyslexic, which I’m only now realising has taught me to translate this world through art in a very particular way. I listen to, watch and remember things that are going on around me constantly. I find the subtleties of life both humorous and macabre. I guess I’ve always found beauty in the breakdown. Describe your work in three words. Tiny. Dangerous. Fun. Are you currently working on any projects in Amsterdam? I have found my tribe here in Amsterdam. I’m collaborating with Studio Hamerhaai on a project called The Rijkswachters – a series of wooden robots made of old crates from the Rijks Museum in which works of art were kept safe during the decade the museum was under construction. Each robot comes with a unique code that’s directly linked to the museum’s database and you can see what your robot used to hold as its treasure. Any plans for the future? I try to not think about my plans too much. I will follow the feeling and leave as much of it up to chance as I possibly can. But if I get to make art and ride my bicycle every day, then I will continue to live the dream. Visit flaggmakesart.com for more.