What do we, human beings, imagine about anything under the surface? Mystery? Horror? Fear? Or Nescience?
About The Invisible Ones and The Ones That Escape From Our Sight
Above the surface anything is visible and appears to us. The feeling of knowing anything above the surface, sometimes, makes us stop in life. We stop walking and stop diving. And that's the time when we would get trapped in shallowness.
Mulyana, born in Bandung in 1984 and an alumnus of Pondok Pesantren Gontor (Gontor Islamic Boarding School) and Pendidikan Seni Rupa UPI (Department of Fine Art Education), Bandung, has his own unique view. His personal experiences, how some of his friends looked down on him, during his time in school and college, had upset and broke his spirit down. Somehow, he managed to find an art practice to overcome it.
He started to love the practice of modular art. His experience, while working at Tobucil, Bandung, strengthened it and made him decide to pick knitting as his art practice. In his view, knitting has a reflective and contemplative element. It also requires a full mind and body concentration. He finds tranquility in doing a work that needs a high level focus. When the body and the mind work, his feelings may take a rest.
Underwater world has been amazing him for some time. For him, underwater world often holds a mystery and a secret that scare people. Such fear may come from nescience. But for him, the strangeness and the miracle of underwater world has become his inspiration to present the Octopus. a monster look alike figure, in various colors. He also presents other figures from underwater world, with their own habitat, like corals and reefs. He has presented this works in his solo exhibition, "Mogus World", in Bandung (2012) and later developed it further and presented it in "Imaginarium" Over The Ocean Under The Sea" at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore in 2016.
In his creative process, Mulyana often uses a fiction story that he creates as the starting point and then the story would animate every character and form that he presents. He mostly uses knitting and crochet to execute his ideas. The merging of colors found in his works is a way to open a dialogue with a stereotype that considers the underwater world creatures as scary, even cruel and dangerous, animals. By using those interesting colors, he begs to differ.
Moreover, Mulyana's admiration of underwater world actually is his admiration of God itself. By taking inspiration from what is available in the underwater world, he actually wants to talk about anything that escape from our sight. What if what we consider as strange is only a matter of habit and custom. Meanwhile, the underwater world presents the strangeness and the miracle that's more magical that the fiction world that we've been imagining so far.
This year, Mulyana presents the theme of underwater world and his unique characters to the public of ARTJOG as Commission Works. In and of itself, as Commission Works, technique of knitting has its own obstacles and challenges in creating a big size works, like the previous Commission Works in ARTJOG. And to answer such challenge, he invites and asks for help from elder women in Sorogenen. He met them while doing a workshop of knitting, and they are the ones who have been helping and supporting him in creating his works. Their relationship is not merely the transactional one, they've also been exchanging knowledge and other values.
This year, the theme of ARTJOG is Enlightenment. In this case, enlightenment is any effort to cast out the darkness. Here, darkness itself, in its broader sense, means narrow mindedness, fanaticism, ethnocentrism, ultra-nationalism, fundamentalism, violence and any other ism that ignores the values of humanity. Enlightenment can manifest itself in the art practice and/or daily life, and it also should be able to illuminate itself (art).
This theme is in accordance with Mulyana's perspective and the practice that he's been doing. He's running a process of creating works that has a reflective function on itself. Here, he uses medium of art as a mean to overcome the struggle within himself, and by using technique of knitting that relies on thoroughness and is not attached to any machinery process, he tries to re-question modernity in contemporary art world. He also builds a network with people around him, and reinterpret the position of art of craft in contemporary art world that so far has been separated from fine art. By doing that he's able to give responsibility to a wider art audience.
In this works entitled Sea Remembers, Mulyana presents the figure of a set of colourful corals and reefs attached on a whale skeleton, and a group of fishes that looks like an explosion of an atomic bomb. He reveals what's been hidden below the surface so far, asks us to dive deeper--literally and metaphorically. Thus, Mulyana wants to negotiate the common sense about the fear of unknown. It may come from our own heads that filled with prejudice and nescience. That group of fishes that looks like an atomic bomb is a reminder that human beings have the power to create and, at the same time, to destroy. We always have a choice, whether to look after or to destroy the beauty. That's his gift for us all; as a piece of enlightenment.