How did you come to start working in miniature?
My mother was really into taking me to museums, and I spent many, many childhood hours with my face pressed up to glass display cases, peering into dioramas and other simulated worlds. When I was four-years old I made a small scene with a block of wood coated in white and blue Play-doh; on this I perched a small plastic penguin. So I guess this all started pretty early. Later I studied painting and printmaking, but ended up feeling limited by those media. After time I realised I should just be making what made me the happiest, and I started the miniature work. I often say that if the nine-year-old me travelled forward to meet the current me he'd probably give me a huge high five. And maybe demand to stay.
They draw you out
Why the focus on houses/the home in your Distillation series?
The Distillation series is really about boiling life down to the moments that define who we are. Consequently, many of the works deal with the interactions between parents and children in or around the home. The house is really the centre of the universe for a child - it's the stage for the majority of memories, and it's the symbol of security, joy, terror, etc. Most of the homes in that series are imperilled, but maybe no more so than the families they house. In that way, the houses take on personalities of their own.
Why do you house your works in glass?
Many of the pieces have an unseen "before" and "after" in the unfolding narrative; what you're seeing under glass is the moment in between. The glass seems to stop time, freezing the action in the world below. The glass adds an element of history, preciousness and magic that keeps these worlds contained - and keeps the viewer at a distance.
Could you tell us the story of If/then please?
If/then is part of the Reclamations series, which deals primarily with the duality of romantic love. It was commissioned by a collector as an anniversary gift for his partner. The feeling of ambiguity is present in much of my work, and that's certainly the case here: Is the man above pulling the other up? Or is he about to be pulled under by the man below?
Your models have are oddly filmic. Are you inspired by film?
The works do tend to have a cinematic quality, like film stills. As well as arresting time, the domes often distort as well. Null cipher came from a simple desire to see a house levitate; The Reprisal came to mind after seeing a grave in the woods on Foyle's War. Escalation is one of the less fictive works - my father once had a coworker who filled the yard with his estranged wife's possessions, destroyed them with an ax, and set them afire.
Well Enough Alone
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I always have a few things going. I just wrapped up a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire where I was able to tackle some more complex pieces. While most of my work to date has been about one foot in diameter, I've been exploring work three times that size. The miniature scale has remained the same, but the works themselves have grown larger, resulting in more fully realised worlds.
See more at www.thomasdoyle.net
This article was originally published 01 May 2009