PETALING JAYA: It’s a sad fact but Malaysians produce way too much trash – 38 million kilogrammes daily to be precise – and unsurprisingly, the country has almost run out of landfills to dispose of this waste.
Needless to say, the copious amounts of carbon dioxide released from these landfills only serves to increase the rate of global warming.
Realising the urgent need to create awareness about the importance of producing less waste for the sake of the planet, Celine Tan and her husband Oscar Lee founded an art collective called co2_karbondioksida.
Tan and Lee were both architects in Kuala Lumpur before deciding to give up their hectic city life and move back to their home town of Muar.
“We got tired of the life in KL, so we decided to return to Johor to start our freelance art project, as we were both born and bred here,” said Tan, 29, adding that the couple designs houses on a part-time basis.
Both self-taught artists, Tan admitted that the couple had a rough start although they learned soon enough it was mainly because they were using the wrong tools for the job.
“Also, this was very new to us, it was natural to have doubts if we could do it,” she told FMT.
Although they took one year to complete their first project, “Eyes of Muar,” inclusive of the time spent collecting the waste materials they needed, by the end of the project, they were convinced this was the path they wanted to pursue.
The couple learnt the ropes over time, and their latest art installation, “Last Pride of Tiger,” is of an impressive three metre-tall installation that was featured during Zero Waste Malaysia’s launch of Trashpedia at The School in Jaya One last month.
The art piece will be on display at Sunway Pyramid till the end of May.
According to Tan, Lee is a natural when it comes to art and is the team’s main artist. She said he was mostly inspired by none other than Neil Buchanan of children’s art TV programme, Art Attack. “He just has the feel for it.”
And instead of using money to buy new materials, which will eventually end up as thrash, Lee decided to use discarded material and with a little creativity, turn these into art instead.
Tan added that his mom was pivotal in his journey as an artist.
“We didn’t have a lot of projects when we were starting out; we were doing simple things like paper crafts at home,” she said, explaining that despite earning very little at the time, Lee’s parents were encouraging as they understood the couple needed one or two years to fully explore their new endeavour.
Among the waste materials the couple has used in their art installations include Styrofoam, shuttlecocks, aluminium cans and plastic plates.
They intend to explore Tetra Pak cartons next. At the moment, they’re focussing on using PP5 containers, also known as polypropylene.
“It’s really easy to find them in Muar. After we posted our request on Facebook, we received quite a lot from the community, especially from the aunties as they have the habit of washing and reusing these food containers,” she explained.
Tan and Lee are currently working out the details of their next art installation in collaboration with the Penang city council.
It goes without saying that they’ve received good feedback for their work so far.
“We especially love watching the response from children. They’re very curious and they ask questions like ‘how did the takeaway containers become a tiger?’.
“Their parents then explain to them about how our wasteful consumption habits are contributing towards the extinction of these animals; it’s very rewarding for us.”
Tan and Lee have also held workshops and art competitions in primary schools as they hope to raise awareness among children in Muar.
“We’re especially focussing on endangered species, like the tapir and tiger.”
At the end of the day, the couple hope their art installations using waste materials will make others think twice before buying plastic items, especially since these take up to 500 years or more to decompose.