Australian artist creates unique stories inside matchboxes

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Australian artist creates unique stories inside matchboxes

A south-east Queensland artist is interested in fire, but the only fire she is interested in lighting is a creative spark.

Sharks leaping into a waterspout, penguins mingling with nuns and a space shuttle gliding over the Sydney Opera House show some of the stories inside Marlies Oakley'sOakley's mind.

Bundaberg is a German-born woman who creates miniature stories inside matchboxes using a cut and paste collage technique, then joins the boxes together to create large voyeuristic artworks.

Ms Oakley said that every matchbox is different.

They consist of a background with a few other elements within the matchbox for a 3 D format. All collage and hand cut. Ms Oakley started working with collage after her home and business were devastated by the 2013 Bundaberg floods.

Her early works involved cutting postage stamps to create large-scale portraits and the process helped calm her mind.

Recent stress-COVID-19 lockdowns triggered matchboxes to work with matchboxes.

A couple of years ago, I got a lot of a box of matches at the Tender Centre, Ms Oakley said.

Each matchbox contains its own weird or quirky tale and when linked they represent the common feelings of isolation and disconnection during lockdowns.

She said they are all their own stories because they have all got sort of inside their own homes and cocoons during COVID and nobody went out.

I love all of them, I just giggle when I see them. Ms Oakley has won several art prizes for her works, including the prestigious Martin Hanson Memorial Art Award and 'Highly Commended' Lethbridge Gallery Small Art Award, two years in a row.

Her 2022 entry Thinking Inside the Box cubed is 462 matchbox stories linked to form a cube.

The cube took Ms Oakley about a week to create, in a process she describes as a memory game where she surrounded herself with images she had cut.

Ms Oakley is mindful of her practice of writing stories, but it is cutting the small images from op-shop books and magazines that have been the most helpful in calming her mind.

Ms Oakley said for hours I'm just cutting things out.

I had a vacation for three weeks and I didn't do it, and at the end I thought I need it, I miss it'. I go into my own little world and cut and glue. Ms Oakley's creations are one of the only downsides of sourcing matchboxes, with many shops no longer stocking them.

It's quite expensive to find the old matchboxes, said Ms Oakley.

I found a really good supply at a major hardware store, I don't know if they use them for barbecues or whatever, but you can still find them. She removes the matches and places them into a large jar, which she may use in an artwork in the future.

Ms Oakley's artwork Thinking Inside the Box cubed is currently on display at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery as part of the HERE now 2022 exhibition, which runs until November 13th.