Using art to connect people and environment

National 5 minutes, 19 seconds


ARTISTS are exploring new forms of art in Brunei, combining the use of nature and recyclable materials to connect people and the environment.

Dr Martie Geiger-Ho, senior art lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), believes that a new series of artwork is starting to evolve in the country.

The lecturer has created a number of driftwood sculptures that focus on the idea of adapting to changes in life and ways of connecting with new identities through a sense of place.

“After my arrival in Brunei in 2012, I felt that if I were to use the driftwood and washed up boards from buildings found on Brunei’s South China Sea beaches (like on the Muara Beach), I believe a new series of artwork would begin to evolve,” she said.

Dr Geiger-Ho’s hobby of collecting rocks and driftwoods off the beach led her to believe that societies should appreciate the nature more.

“At the beach, I like to collect things that are on the shore like seashells and driftwoods and so on. By doing that, not only am I able to create my own art out of the junk, but I am also contributing to the community by cleaning the beach,” she said.

She said there are dangerous sand fleas buried around dead woods. “Sand fleas like the environment that these objects create. By cleaning these junk away, we can help clean up the environment.”

She added that art provides individuals the opportunity to express themselves, and allows the dissemination of visual information as a way of exchanging knowledge with people in another country with a different language.

An art graduate from UBD, Ijjoji Nordin, said it was important to preserve nature through mixed media techniques by combining mini sculpture, photography and board drawings in his artwork.

Inspired by nature, the 25-year-old’s artwork named Silver Lining features the “hidden phenomenon of nature” as a representation of beauty.

“Each tree is an individual living organism that grows from earth and return to soil after death. To me, no matter a tree is alive or dead, I look at it as a cyclic pattern,” he said.

Ijjojji, who is currently doing part-time job at Rose Photo Printing Services in Tutong, said decayed wood and dead trees have “always some living organism” lingering around.

Explaining his artwork as about “constructing lines to represent life”, he said the constructed lines are geometrical in contrast to organic lines found in nature, but both are interpreted as a representation of beauty.

Ijjojji uses materials such as toothpicks, threads, nails, plastic (acrylic) glasses and cardboards to convey messages of environment conservation.

Working on a limited budget for his work, he added that members of the public can take photos from their phone cameras, preserve their cherished moments in different places to protect the surrounding environment and old buildings.

“By taking photos at different locations, it is like we are remembering our own moment in our own country. Through photos, we can also observe the development that has taken place in our country,” he said.

“Everyone can do art. It’s just a matter of how you can bring yourself to appreciate more. When you start to have appreciation towards simple things in life, you can bring out the best through art. Just like taking photos and materials such as sticks and threads into an art,” added Ijjoji.

Ijjoji’s UBD lecturer, Associate Professor Kong Ho, said artwork based on environment can make an impact and influence members of the public to appreciate nature.

“Nowadays, young people love to play video games at their home rather than play at the park. If the new generation does not spend time at the park and lacks interaction with nature, this generation will not see the importance of trees. They will just cut down trees,” said Kong Ho.

“Without art, our society will forever be living in a cement jungle; be short of preserving the nature,” he added.

Mimi Farahyahida Hj Omarali, a Bachelor of Art of Creative Technology graduate of UBD, also utilises limited materials in her work.

“My artwork’s concept is spiritual art with the aim to create a space that could uplift spiritual feelings just like when we enter a mosque,” the 32-year-old said.

Her artwork is based on mixed media such as plywoods, papercut techniques and pattern painting by combining traditional Islamic geometrical patterns designed from Islamic ornamental concepts.

Although she spent around $1,500 to $2,000 for her art due to the cost of plywood, she also used materials such as old newspapers or recycle papers for her future project.

“In the future, I am concentrating on using hanging scrolls to create a spiritual space,” said Mimi, who teaches Art at Sufri Bolkiah Secondary School in Tutong.

“By combining Islamic geometrical patterns and arabesques decoration on papercut design scrolls, I aim to use light and shadow as a way to emit a divine aura in a normal environment and give it sense of sacred space,” she said, adding that her inspiration began during UBD’s Discovery Year programme at the Prince School of Traditional Arts in London in 2012.

Her fascination for Islamic geographical patterns led her to explore the relationship between geometrical patterns and spiritual space to understand its impact on prayers.

“We can pray anywhere. But adding some sort of Islamic element through patterns that has an impact in uplifting spiritual aura, congregants would appreciate more on their surrounding environment,” she added.

Mimi’s brother, Muhammad Alinormin Hj Omarali, is also an artist who was recently invited to display his clay sculpture at an exhibition in the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan this September.

The Universiti Brunei Darussalam graduate said he used mainly recycled materials such as rope, newspapers, used socks, worn off gloves, an old traditional Malay attire, mask, rubber, wires and wigs to construct his sculpture.

Muhd Alinormin, who is also a Bruneian art teacher at Binturan Primary School, said his life-size sculpture of a senior citizen titled Life of a Pensioner, represents the story behind the life of Bruneian pensioners.

“We can use waste products or things that you no longer use to art. That way, you would appreciate the things that many people would throw everyday, and think of a creative way to make it into an art that is unique and has a voice of its own,” said Muhd Alinormin.

The Brunei Times