Knitting the soul of the world

Mulyana, Yogyakarta-based environmental artist from Bandung, Indonesia, uses discarded materials such as rubber, plastic and fabric from factories and knits them into imaginary creatures, sculptures and art installations on a large scale. The former art teacher is committed to using art as a medium and has had works showcased domestically and abroad in Australia and Singapore and now Thailand. The artist aims to convey the message, "for humanity to honour the world that we live in", to reflect environmental issues. This exhibition is one of five world-class partnerships held to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Central Embassy. Guru speaks to Mulyana about his new eco-exhibit, "Anima Mundi: Soul of the World" on display in Bangkok.

Photo courtesy of Central Embassy

How did you come up with 'Anima Mundi'?

Anima Mundi is an expression I feel means 'soul of the world'. I've always prioritised the soul and how I feel at every moment. Prior to taking care of the environment, we have to first take care of ourselves.

What inspired you to make an environmental statement through art?

It's been two years since I've taken more action and deep interest in impacts on the environment. From news stories such as pollution and wastes, it's our problem, and I want to use art as a reminder for us all. I want to share knowledge and happiness with others and I believe that the vibrant colours can attract people and connect people of all ages.

When did you decide that knitting and crochet was your method?

It actually started off as a hobby, I spent a majority of my time drawing and playing around with art until I saw many of my friends knitting and use different types of materials to create shawls, hats, clothes and other items. That really caught my eye and it sprung my creative side to another level where I just kept on experimenting with. With this exhibition, I recycled a lot of metals and plastic from waste sites near factories in the areas of West Java and incorporated them in these art pieces. This type of art and crochet allows me to have details displayed right at your face at a bigger scale and impact.

You've carried out many exhibitions, what made you want to do one in Bangkok?

It's my first time exhibiting here and I also had to think outside the box with different pieces and the layout design because it is being displayed inside a mall, so people will constantly see it. This is a new and exciting opportunity [displaying in Bangkok] as it also marks my biggest exhibition to date.

You moved from Bandung to Yogyakarta to continue creating new pieces. Do you work on your own?

I was born in Bandung and grew up there, however it was a very isolated and individualised society. I moved to Yogyakarta because it was a more tight and community-based city where I had a lot of people to work alongside me. Around 30 people have helped and contributed, from schools to up to four different villages. I usually assemble my projects for five to six months but to come to Bangkok, it was a little pressure and I had to get it done by roughly 3.5 months. I have a few people that have been tied with me for a long time that now help me with my art installations and upcoming exhibits. The big pieces were assembled back home and brought here while the small pieces were all designed from scratch when I came to Bangkok.

Photos: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

You came up with your crocheted alter-ego, 'The Mogus'. What does it represent?

The Mogus is an octopus and is short for Monster, it's something that has stuck with me for a long time and represents freedom. I have countless pieces of this exact item that I keep closely with me. For others to experience them, I made many individual interactive crochet pieces where everyone can create their own imaginative monsters and take pictures.

What message do you want Thais to receive as they see your work?

For all my exhibitions, I want to express that life does eventually come to an end and that we all should take simple measures to conserve our environment for the future. I also want to emphasise creating a sense of care about the nature and environment simultaneously.

'Anima Mundi: Soul of the World' runs until Sep 1 from 10am-10pm at Level G Central Embassy. Activities, talks and knitting-workshops will be held throughout the exhibition. Visit fb.com/centralembassy for updates.