With the rise of Greta Thunberg, the climate crisis has never been more of a talking point. Among those calling for action before it’s too late are some of the world’s leading ‘eco artists’—William Koong, a waste metal sculptor based in Klang.
Sustainability is increasingly becoming the standard of living for many people. Apart from companies making changes to their processes, individuals are also making lifestyle changes. Considering the state of our planet, it has become imperative that companies and individuals collectively work to protect the Earth’s natural resources. Human activity will continue to have adverse impacts on the environment if not treated cautiously.
For instance, issues like pollution, water scarcity, and global warming are the side effects of our negligent use of resources. As a result, we can notice shifts in the way not just manufacturers but artists that now offer sustainable products and services. Here, we highlight a local eco artist, William Koong who has made a conscious decision to use sustainable and eco-friendly materials that will make a difference to the planet and the people within it.
Ecological Art or ‘Eco Art’ is a contemporary form of environmental art created by artists who are concerned about local and global environmental situations. With various forms of pollution becoming increasingly serious, the field is growing rapidly.
Hundreds of artists are working around the world to make a statement that they hope will strike the consciousnesses of us all—and one of them is our fellow Malaysian, William Koong, a scrap metal artist that’s making waves in this genre. Despite his quiet online presence, he is an innovative metal sculptor worthy of praise. As a kid, Koong loved to spend time in his brother’s car repair shop, where he learned metalworking basics and experimentation. Currently, Koong is Co-Director at Me.reka Makerspace, an innovative education space that supports and prepares individuals to flourish in evolving industries.
What made you take up metal sculpting?
I was born and raised in a poor family so my dad didn’t have much support in terms of buying toys, so he liked to pick up old garbage like mini compos and hi-fis for me to open up. So that was my first experience using waste materials. Metal came into the picture later when my brother-in-law opened a workshop here in Klang. I got to play in the workshop when I was twelve and during school holidays, he would teach me skills like welding and basically how to bend any type of metal into whatever shape I wanted.
I actually gave up metal sculpting for a short while, I never knew I would be an artist today. I knew I loved getting my hands dirty and being creative with it but I’ve never really done it before. When I joined the Biji-Biji Initiative as a partner, they gave me the confidence to express this passion of mine. As time went by, I ventured into waste metal sculptures, in 2012 specifically.
How can Malaysians support Malaysian artists better? Especially during a time like this.
During times like these, I would say that exposure on social media is one of the best ways to support an artist in Malaysia. If you like the artwork an artist has put out, don’t be afraid to contact them. I understand that there are a lot of movies that have portrayed artists as being unapproachable and over the years, they’ve created this stigma that an artist’s art piece is hard to get.
In reality, it’s nothing like that—at least in Malaysia. It’s as easy as dropping them a message on Facebook or Instagram, calling them up and seeing how you can support them, aside from buying their artwork of course. You’ll never know what can happen if you don’t reach out to them, you’ll actually be surprised that something as simple as that can help you form a rather personal bond with the artist.
Many Malaysians resonate with the stigma that art never pays the bills and can only be a hobby. What would you say to these people?
Art is just one of the many ways one can make money, if they choose to. I think hard work and dedication pays the bills so it doesn’t matter what you choose to do—as long as you have the heart to do it, all the hard work you’ve put in will be paid off in the end. So, I personally think the saying ‘art doesn’t pay the bills’ makes sense to me.