The Eco-Friendly Calligrapher
STORY: Farhan Shafie
05 June 2020
Malik Mazlan is always looking to push boundaries as an artist. His work in Chinese calligraphy earned him a Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award back in 2016, and he continues to reimagine the art form beyond traditional mediums.
The 31-year-old has incorporated virtual reality technology and collaborated with musicians in the past. "I wanted to move towards performance art. The fact that I had control over the environment through VR was very exciting to me. We used Google Tilt Brush, a relatively new technology that emphasised movement which is what calligraphy is all about. Music, on the other hand, is a very powerful medium and it's accesible to everybody."
But it's not just about innovation. Malik also understands the importance of being environmentally responsible. When it comes to his calligraphy, he strives for zero wastage. Even though a considerable amount of paper, water and ink is used, he believes that artistes should always seek to find alternatives.
"I am inspired by the environmental movement and that's why I try to recycle calligraphy paper. Instead of throwing pieces that you do not want, you can save it to do other things. As long as the material is fibrous, we can actually remake the paper. "
But what are the steps involved?
First, you select the paper waste that you plan to recycle, be it drafts, past projects or even personal items that will become the new canvas. Then you shred the paper before grinding it to a pulp and soaking it in water overnight. You can also boil it to make it even finer. Afterwards, there is a sizing process.
"There is a chemistry aspect to it," Malik explains, "It's not simply just tearing the paper and putting it in a mould. You have to create a certain alkaline product to ensure the paper doesn't spread the ink when you paint on it."
For the video, Malik decided on using a 2019 calendar for his pulp. "Everytime when a new year comes comes around, calendars get thrown away and the significance of it I guess is to throw out the old and ring in the new." It is this mindset of reinvention and embracing change that probably influenced his Instagram handle @zen_emptiness.
"When you put something in a room or empty space, you have already dictated what the room is going to be. Therefore, emptiness is the realm of possibilites," Malik muses, "I want my mind to be empty. So that calligraphy can be anything to me and open up so much possibilities. Zen is like a state of mind that I'm trying to achieve."
Ultimately, Malik wants to expand the art of Chinese calligraphy to a wider audience and also challenge the notion of what it can be. If there is one piece of advice he would give to younger artistes, it would be to be more open to the idea of collaboration.
"It is true that art is a personal thing but I also get all my best ideas from mixing around with fellow artistes. Don't stay in your own cave. You can go fast, but not far."
World Environment Day
Today (5 June) is World Environment Day. It is a United Nations day dedicated to encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. According to the United Nations:
• World Environment Day was first established in 1974 and every year since, governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens focused their efforts on a pressing environmental issue;
• 2020's theme is biodiversity, both an urgent and existential issue that demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist;
• Human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit;
• The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life.