A trail of tiny dioramas will be hidden in plain sight across Ballarat as part of the Biennale of Australian Art later this year

TINY ART: Liz Sonntag has made an artform of creating miniature dioramas in unexpected nooks, such as where a brick has fallen out of a wall.
TINY ART: Liz Sonntag has made an artform of creating miniature dioramas in unexpected nooks, such as where a brick has fallen out of a wall.

Liz Sonntag’s trade in art is different to all others, with tiny toys reimagined into quirky scenes that are randomly placed in the great outdoors.

From a spur of the moment decision to stage a mini-scene of Big Bird being held up by toy soldiers on a Collingwood window sill two years ago, Ms Sonntag has carved an artistic niche in the street art scene that she is bringing to Ballarat as part of the Biennale of Australian Art.

Her canvas is the random nooks and crannies along streets and laneways that most people walk past.

“I have used a lot of different places but the best ones are old walls with a brick missing and a nice little nook there with a little bit of height, width and depth,” Ms Sonntag said.

“Or sometimes it might be a drain or exposed pipe, or even on the ground.”

Some people notice the tiny dioramas, while others walk past. A trademark of her work is one “big” item in the scene that skews the scale of the miniature figures that inhabit the space.

”I love to stand back and watch how people engage with it. When you watch people accidentally find it there’s always like this little moment of joy or glee that they have, and I love that.

“And sometimes I really enjoy watching people walk past it and don’t know it’s there – it’s like I know a secret and it remind me that you really have to be awake in life because we so focus on getting from A to B that you don’t really see what’s around you. It’s like a little reminder to be present and mindful of where you are and what you’re doing.”

BOAA organisers approached Ms Sonntag, whose street art name is Tinky, to create a trail of her mini-worlds throughout the CBD during BOAA, which runs from September 21 to November 6. 

Ms Sonntag creates her works from bought and made figurines and found objects, and usually has no idea of the result until she starts work.

​But in the case of the BOAA trail she will plan about 30 different scenes and install about 10, and earlier this month Ms Sonntag was in Ballarat to walk around the city with BOAA artistic director Julie Collins to look for possible sites.

“The only challenge will be, even though it’s part of BOAA, that it will be outdoor and once I put it there I really hope people won’t tamper with them.

“In normal circumstances if I install one on the street I walk away and recognise that people will interact in any way they want, even if it means vandalising or damaging it. But because it will be part of a longer event I think I’ll be popping up to make sure things are there or replaced.”