Using up to 3,000 kilos of sand and 800 kiloS of sugar, Australian artist Tanya Schultz, better known as Pip & Pop, creates the most fantastic hallucinatory dreamscapes. Inspired by old myths and folk tales, her utopias are deceptively sweet.

Tanya, you were born in Perth, on the most western tip of Australia. What’s it like to grow up there? 

I think my childhood was pretty amazing, a lot of time spent outdoors and lots of freedom.  It’s much more urbanized now, but when I grew up there were lots of vacant lots and bushland to play in. It was a bit of a cultural desert though. I don’t remember even visiting an art gallery until I was 15.

Do you think growing up on the edge of Australia’s great sandy desert somehow had an influence on you creating these rich and abundant, colorful dreamscapes? 

Maybe. The landscape here is quite beautiful, and we have a lot of sunshine and bright blue skies. But I think perhaps I was more influenced by my parents travel adventures. They traveled overseas a lot when I was young and also my dad would go on adventures to the desert with his friends. My dad was an avid photographer, and would always have a slide night when he returned - I was completely entranced by the images of these faraway places.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m multi-tasking! I’m working in my studio in Fremantle (a beach-side suburb in Perth) preparing work for an exhibition in Korea this month and then the Netherlands straight after. But I’m also doing some prep work for other projects later in the year in China and Australia, and working on designs for a fashion collaboration. Today I’ve been making some sugar coated rock-objects in my studio, sweet drippy glittery rocks that I’ll use for my next show.

Can you describe the project and  what it’s about?  

My next project is a work called "Where there is a flower, there must be a butterfly, so that the flower shines more brightly". It’s for an exhibition called Hello City at Daejeon Museum of Art in Korea. There are lots of great artists in this show and I’m super excited to meet them and exhibit beside them. I’ll be creating a large stepped platform covered with colored patterns and glitter surfaces. On top I will build a super colorful landscape created from an array of materials like sugar, glitter, beads, pompoms, fake flowers and crystals. I’ve been looking at Korean folk art and stories. I’m really interested in minwha, folk paintings that include mythological creatures, symbols of wealth, and often function as talismans for good luck. 

You may use up to 3,000 kilos of sand and 800 kilos of sugar in your installations. What are some of the material dimensions of the project you’re currently doing?

The works can vary in size from just a few meters wide to installations that fill rooms 30 meters long. It all depends on practical things like budget, time and how many people can help with the installation. I’d love to make bigger and bigger artworks - my dream is to make works that are so abundant, color-saturated and detailed that it makes you dizzy.

I read you’re greatly inspired by a medieval French legend called The Land of Cockaigne. Can you tell us what it’s about? 

Yes, I really love these kind of tales. The Land of Cockaigne was an imagined utopian paradise, a decadent place of abundant food where the rivers flowed with honey and the streets were paved with pastries. It emerged in medieval times when food was scarce and people imagined a better place, where they could have everything they desired. There are versions in other cultures such as the Dutch Luilekkerland or the German version Schlaraffenland. They are seen as both aspirational fantasies and cautionary tales of gluttony. 

I had never heard of the tale, but it seems it inspired a great many modern stories. I can think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example. Any others?

It’s found in lots of video games like Super Mario’s Sweet Sweet Galaxy and Choco Island, Sonic the Hedgehog’s Sweet Mountain Zone and in animations like Wreck-it Ralph and Adventure Time’s Candy Kingdom. And of course older stories like Hansel & Gretel and the song Big Rock Candy Mountain. 

What are some of your other, more contemporary inspirations?

I’m inspired by the places I go, and always research local folklore, traditional crafts, popular culture and mythologies of the place that I’m creating a work in. I also take time to wander around, buy new materials, take photos of colours and patterns, and be open to unexpected encounters. All of these things inspire each artwork, in obvious and subtle ways. The materials I find influence the artwork I make. I always look for new unexpected things to create work with. I’m pretty drawn to anything that is sparkly, pink, tiny, shiny or sweet. I’m also influenced by cinema, platform video games and animations, especially ones that describe paradisiacal lands. 

Do you like to eat? 

Yes I love to eat! I love desserts, and I especially love chocolate. But I also try to eat wholesome food. I eat a lot of salads and vegetables and wholefoods. At the moment I’m obsessed with raw carrot and walnut cake, perfect with a cup of chai.

You are what you eat? 

So I’m quite sweet then :)

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. Some of your best friends are coming over. No work on Monday. What is your dream meal?

We live right next to a big park, so it would be a picnic with our friends. My dream meal would be cooked by my husband, because he’s a great cook. Something Japanese - okonomoyaki, a Japanese pancake filled with cabbage, pickled ginger and vegetables would be great, thanks. Also some nice salads, Japanese tea and a chocolate dessert too, of course. 

What are some of your favorite children’s books?

All of the Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson, Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree, Richard Scarry's How Things Work, and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I also loved the Diggingest Dog when I was small, I read it over and over.

What’s the last art book you bought?

Umberto Eco’s Legendary Lands. It’s not an art book, but is filled with fascinating historical maps and illustrations of imagined places throughout history and is an inspiration for my art. The last art book was a gift - Japanese artist Yuko Kanatani’s Yxicooo, which is full of super colorful patterned artworks. She is one of my favorite artists and a dear friend.

If we’d like to see your work this year, where would that be possible?

If you’re in Korea you can see my work in Hello City at Daejeon Museum of Art. Or if you’re in the Netherlands I have a show at 38CC in Delft. Later in the year I’m creating a work in Tianjin in China and a few other smaller projects in Australia. More projects and shows are in the planning process - I’ll keep you posted!


ArtEli Rezkallah