This down-to-earth artist is all about attention to detail and revealing the allure of the miniature.
When Mylyn Nguyen was a toddler, she’d collect empty matchboxes and make paper dolls to tuck into them, with paper blankets and pillows. Later, she became a master of the cardboard cubby, sitting in the box for hours, finding comfort in the “dim, browny-hued darkness and warm paper smell”.
Decades on, 41-year-old Nguyen still makes mini replicas of big buildings but now she does it full-time and has 152,000 Instagram followers watching videos of her imagination at work. The delight is in the details: her Asian bakery, for example, has microscopic vanilla slices in the display cabinet, a teeny tea towel on the oven door and a Lilliputian plastic chair for the owner to sit on. “That says there’s a human in there. He’s just out the back emptying the rubbish or taking a bathroom break.”
Nguyen has a solo show at .M Contemporary in Sydney’s Darlinghurst next year, with a selection of 15 buildings from Newtown’s King Street in shrinky-dink form. About 10 centimetres high, each palm-size piece takes at least three weeks to make. The exhibition’s working title is I’m not cool enough for Newtown. “There’s something about Newtown that freaks me out. I’ve never felt like I fitted in with the arty crowd.”
Influenced by picture books and such “everyday art” as an elegantly sculptured armchair, Nguyen finds inspiration in “real things”, like the patina on a weathered brick wall. She has impressive university credentials but no delusions about the weightiness of her work. “I don’t mind people calling my art ‘cute’ because it is cute! It’s adorable! Why can’t that be art as well?”
Studied: Bachelor of Visual Arts (majoring in glass) and Master of Visual Arts, Object Art and Design (Glass), Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.
What the critics say: “Mylyn Nguyen’s beautifully detailed tiny models depict stop-offs that are part of the everyday fabric of life. Looking at them from this angle, you can soak up the incongruently glamorous remnants of glorious old façades above their awnings.” – Stephen A. Russell, Time Out