Turning trash into art

Co2 creates life-sized recycled animal sculptures to teach schoolchildren the importance of caring for the environment.

OUR The environmentally conscious duo behind Co2, also known as carbon dioxide, are Celine Tan and Oscar Lee. Having met at the university while studying for an architectural degree, they became architects. Now as freelancers, they find time to do what they love, creating art like Co2, from painting murals to life-size animal sculptures.

Li said, “When the pandemic hit, we started doing a lot of takeaway food. There are five of us in my family, so you can only imagine how much plastic we have accumulated. Because the Lee family had a habit of washing plastic containers after meals, he came up with the idea to turn the containers into art, rather than just taking up space in their kitchen cabinet.

Their first sculpture made entirely from recycled plastic containers was a model of Venom from Marvel comics. “The alien anti-hero was considered a villain due to his toxic relationship with his host. Just as plastic makes our lives easier, we created Venom to signify that excessive plastic consumption is also a toxic attitude that harms our environment.”

Soon after it, Hutan Tutan happened. “Hutan Tutan” is a pun on a Chinese idiom for an animal that is endangered due to deforestation.

Grew up on shows like The art of attackLee has always been an art lover and decided to partner with @little.wild.school to spread the word about endangered species to elementary school students in their home state of Johor. “We wanted the kids to learn about endangered and extinct animals so that they have a connection with them and understand the seriousness of the situation,” Tan explained.

Along with online workshops allowing kids to learn about wildlife, Hutan Tutan the project also consists of elements of an art and video competition.

The duo plan to make a total of 10 life-sized animal sculptures from recycled plastic containers, which will be donated to a total of 10 elementary schools throughout the project.

10 endangered animals they chose to create Hutan Tutan Malayan tiger, Malayan tapir, Borneon orangutan, Asian elephant, nosed monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros, black panther, siamang and gaur.

SJK(C) Pu Nan in Bakri was the first school to win a life size Malayan tapir sculpture.

The theme of the second event was the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is extinct in Malaysia. The country’s last rhinoceros, Iman, died of cancer in 2019, and the species’ numbers have dwindled to 80 individuals, all of which live in Indonesia.

In memory of the rhinoceros, Lee painted Sumatran rhino murals for the runner-up school as a token of appreciation and donated a rhino sculpture to the winning SJK(C) Chi Chuying school in Sagil.

Instead of painting the sculptures, they decided to leave them transparent to show that one day the animals will disappear if we don’t take action.

In the future, Li and Tang hope to collect and exhibit all of their recycled plastic sculptures, which they created in their whimsical one-story terrace art studio in Muar.

In addition to using plastic containers, they also made a Tetra Pak wall sculpture and a batik-themed piece of art out of plastic lids.

In addition to being an art lover, Lee also loves nature, loves gardening and landscaping.

With his architectural background, his passion for sustainability came naturally, and one of his biggest inspirations is a Taiwanese architect named Arthur Huang, who started his own construction company, recycling consumer and industrial waste into building materials.

Art aficionados in Kuala Lumpur can also see the couple’s other creation, a 3.5-meter sculpture called Tiger’s last pridewhich will be in LINK until the end of July.

Amazing picture Lee!  The Last Tiger Pride will be on display at The LINC, KL until the end of July.  - CO2

Lee’s amazing painting “The Last Tiger Pride” will be on display at The LINC, KL until the end of July. – CO2