There are few who can turn life's mundanities into creative works of inspiration. Sydney-based artist Danling Xiao of Mundane Matters does just that by transforming fruit and vegetables into quirky pieces of art with big ideas to match.
By committing to work on one fruit and vegetable sculpture a day, Danling has found an outlet that lets her work creatively and with a greater purpose. She wants to inspire people to live more sustainably through creative ways as well as the more simple ones.
Since the project began, Mundane Matters has been loved by many on Instagram, with Danling's work turned into prints, showcased in exhibitions and even taught in her zero-waste workshops. This week I had a chat to Danling about Mundane Matters, our collective responsibility and inspiring others to live creatively and sustainably. What a wonder.
Tell me a bit about you and your history with food?
Growing up in a small harbour city in Southern China, food was always the most important thing in my family. It brought the whole family together. It was always fresh from our daily wet market, from the vegetable stalls to the butchers to the seafood vendors and the legume sellers. I loved going to the wet market with mum. It was always noisy and dirty, but full of life.
How did you first get into making fruit and vegetable sculptures and what was the inspiration behind your first piece?
The project began casually more than three years ago. Back then it was much more a spontaneous activity I did every now and then. I ate alone most of the time so I needed something to make my eating more interesting. Also I was going through a lot of unexpected changes in life. Lots of self doubt and uncertainty. I needed it as a way to immerse myself into something that is away from the reality. It was like my meditation.
Why the name Mundane Matters?
The name Mundane Matters has a double meaning. First as a noun - I think nothing can be more mundane than using an apple we eat everyday as artistic medium. It's challenging to explore the possibility in the smallest thing. Secondly, it also reads as 'small things matter'. Through Mundane Matters, I'm hoping to inspire more mindful and creative approach in life and make considered behavioural changes towards our environment.
Amazing. You’ve committed to making one fruit and veggie sculpture a day since last year - has it been difficult sticking to that commitment?
When I think about Mundane Matters' mission and its impact on people's life, making one sculpture a day is something meaningful for me to do everyday. From that perspective, it is not difficult at all to do. In fact it makes me feel good! It can be challenging sometimes when I have to juggle between my graphic design work and Mundane Matters, but like everything else, it is the balance that is hard to maintain.
I hear you! What’s your favourite fruit or veg to work with?
I have been asked many times about what my favourite fruit or vegetable is to create art with - It feels like suddenly the most common things in our life have become so mysterious! I think they all have their unique beauty. If I had to choose one I think it will be the orange. It is a dot. In design language the dot is the most basic element that can become anything. Yellow and orange are my favourite colours. They are happy colours. When you peel the thin orange skin, it reveals a white layer, then the texture of its meat. It is so beautifully designed - by nature!
This one reads: dolphin kissing Australian sun. 🐬🌞 /// This morning I woke up at 5.30am to join my friend @nellyvision to 'Capture the Sun' at Bondi Beach with @solar_citizens, who partners with @getup_australia to help achieve 100% renewable electricity for all Australian homes and businesses by 2030. /// According to UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures' research, a transition to 100% renewable energy in Australia within ONE generation is both technically feasible and economically responsible. /// For someone like myself who dwells in a tiny apartment, it seems there is nothing much we could do at the moment, but at least we could share the words together. People power moves the world. ☀️🚙👊 #mundanematters #capturethesun2030
How does a typical day go down for you?
It varies. I don't have a typical working day anymore. Like I said I juggle between Mundane Matters and other design work. So I could be working from home (with my cat), or at other people's offices or studios. When I am not busy I'd take time off during the day, go to yoga class or go for a walk. Before or after dinner is usually the time when I work on my sculpture. I read a book and meditate before sleep.
When did you start incorporating ideas of sustainable living in your work and why?
The idea of sustainable living has always been in the way I live. I live very minimally, but I was never aware that as an individual, we also have the power to inspire other people living the same way. With Mundane Matters, the natural ingredients I use and the philosophy of the project lie itself perfect in sustainable living. So it seems natural to incorporate the idea in the project. But most importantly, it is something I believe in. I feel responsible for inspiring other people to live sustainably. It is a responsibility we all share as the world's citizen.
What are three things that inspire you to live more sustainably?
- Freedom and happiness
Life is much lighter when we are free of material or status pursue. Also every little good thing we do makes us a better person.
- The way my grandparents used to live
I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents. They are great influence on the way I live. They had been through a lot in life from the wars to Cultural Revolution to the Economic Reform in China. In their whole life, they always lived minimally and never wasted anything. Dad used to give Grandma a lot of presents, but she always saved them and gave them to people in need. We seem to lose that spirit these days.
- The world & our ecosystem
Needless to say, it is everyone's responsibility to help sustain our environment.
How has your life changed in the time you’ve started Mundane Matters?
A lot. It is almost like an enlightenment I have been through in life. A lot of changes but every single change, good or bad, had led me to become a more mindful and calmer person. Mundane Matters grew with me. It documents my thoughts, feelings and events that happen in my life.
I love it. So what’s next for Mundane Matters?
I feel up until now, the journey of Mundane Matters has just begun. I think the past year was for me to find out where my heart lies in this project and what the true purpose is to sustain it.
Mundane Matters can't stop any coal or oil production, but at least, being so mundane, hopefully it can inspire considered behavioural change that will benefit our environment. It can be as simple as saving an imperfect carrot from the bin, eating and shopping ethically, ditching our everyday takeaway coffee cups. There are so many things we know we can do, but because we think we are too busy, we think we have the privilege to do things that damage our environment.
In that saying ... I will still be doing what I have been doing on a daily basis! And the rest, I will let the universe guide me to where I should be!