Tiny Art, Big Impressions

Over the past two weeks, students have been coming to the 4C Centre to participate in a unique Scratch Built art programme – making familiar and iconic Christchurch scenes into miniature dioramas.

Using a mix of materials including styrofoam, plywood, paint, plaster, and polymer clay, each diorama is made with careful attention to even the tiniest of details. The result? Some tiny art that makes a big impression!

The artist

Mike Beer, also known as Ghostcat, recreates buildings and objects into miniature versions that make you look twice. The level of detail and care that goes into each mini-installation is incredible and he works hard to do justice to the original settings.

His previous work includes many scenes and buildings familiar to Christchurch residents like the old Real Groovy records store and other much-beloved buildings from before the earthquakes. His work has been exhibited in many places including the Canterbury Museum and the Fiksate Gallery.

Mike facilitated the workshops alongside Reuben Woods (Creative Director, Watch This Space) and our very own 4C Centre curator, Clark Williams. Together the team has been working with young people to make their own masterpieces during the school holidays.



The process

The first step to making these tiny installations is to get inspired. On the first day of the workshop, students walked around the city looking for inspiration. The Christchurch central space is ideal for artistic inspiration, boasting colourful shop fronts and heritage buildings. Each young person then chose a scene that was meaningful to them. There was a huge variety in these scenes: the storefront of Embassy, an abandoned arcade, a fully-furnished living room, an overgrown garden shed.

The next step was turning these chosen life-size scenes into something tiny, small enough to be handheld even! The scaling down process was done through sketching and drawing. Then the correct materials were selected for each part of the diorama – polymer clay for making tiny plants and pots, plywood for walls, acrylic panels for windows, and styrofoam for tiny bits of rubbish or animals.

Then came hours of assembly and the careful process of ‘ageing’ each element so it looked like it had been part of the landscape for years. A lot of new skills were learnt, like how to make a newly painted wall look like it had been there for years, how to paint rust onto a garbage can, or how to make tiny graffiti prints.

For our young artists, the process of creating these dioramas was a lesson in patience and intentionality, and a chance to see what happens when we slow down and take in our surroundings. This all resulted in some incredible pieces of art representing familiar scenes from around Christchurch and beyond.


The impact
Life is busy.

Each day we rush past hundreds of storefronts, old buildings, dairies, and shops as we travel from place to place. The process of selecting just one of these scenes and then recreating it in perfect detail is a process of mindfulness.

Each empty Coke can, screwed-up poster, and cracked pavement tile tells a story. All of these elements are then combined to create a moment frozen in time.

For a world that is constantly moving and changing, that is pretty cool.


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