Every now and then, you come across an individual that awakens within you an awareness. An awareness to your surroundings, to yourself, to the everyday that we seem to take for granted. An awareness to the mundane, and a reminder to be observant and to feel balanced and centred through creativity.
Danling Xiao, is the talent behind Mundane Matters, a project sharing a hidden vision of everyday life through an Instagram feed of intricate food sculptures and stories. The Sydney based graphic designer and creative, who is very much in touch with her emotions, has always felt the need to create as a way to staying sane.
She is inspired by the everyday, the things that we see, the things that we feel and the things that we use. Through her creations, she speaks on an emotional level that people can connect with.
‘Life inspires me. Everything that I see and the people that I meet. People are a very important element in my creativity. They bring energy and create connections’
‘I create to express my emotions so that I don’t go crazy. Every day I post a photo on Instagram and I write something to accompany it. A lot of the time it’s the need to write that inspires an image. And it just so happens that people love my creations,’ Danling said.
Most of Danling’s creations have come about because she has had something to say. She might have experienced a strong emotion, be it happy or sad, and she would feel the need to share that with others are experiencing the same thing.
‘I want to share with other people and express my feelings, and I think that also has an impact on people because it makes them happy or it inspires them to create.’ Danling said.
Everyone’s approach to their craft is different and the beauty of creativity is that there is no rule of thumb. Danling uses mediation to open her mind, which leads to images popping into her head. Like turning a sweet potato into a pig with a drawer in its midsection.
The next day, she will go to buy some fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, and armed with a knife and a chopping board, she gets to work crafting these sculptures that many people have come to love.
‘The first stage is more about the ideas. The second stage is about the execution of those ideas. This can be a bit of a challenge because you always have to squeeze time into your day to do these things,’ Danling said.
‘For most people that can be a barrier to explore their creativity because we are so exhausted from full-time work, partying, eating and drinking. For me, I need to squeeze in two to three hours every day to make these photos, that’s sort of my creative process.’
Danling posts her images to Instagram on a daily basis except on Sunday or when she needs some well deserved rest. You might be wondering, what happens to the fruit and vegetables once the sculpture is complete and the images have been taken? There is no wastage.
‘We eat it. The next day, we cook it. Sometimes if I create something during the day, then we have it for dinner that very night. That’s the whole thing about working with fruit and vegetables as a medium, it can be used after,’ Danling said.
For Danling, her expression is about exploring life, the journey that we are going through and the commonalities and differences between herself and others. Accepting stresses, frustrations and emotions is a necessary way to make changes and improve.
The popularity of Mundane Matters has risen since it began 3 years ago. It began while she was going through some personal changes and she started to focus on her inner balance, positivity, creativity and finding love in what she created. She was working so hard and felt emotionally drained while chasing recognition as a graphic designer and also trying to please her family who had different goals for her.
‘My whole values and beliefs just changed and I asked myself, why do you work so hard? I was sad and lonely at that point in my life. I turned to my creations to help me,’ Danling said.
‘I wanted to make something and immerse myself into a meditative environment, that’s how Mundane Matters started.’
‘When I first started, my work was nothing like it is today. There was no colour, it was shor on a crappy background and I would take the images in my bathroom because it had the better lighting. It’s really interesting to see the progress of my creations.’
Danling has found Instagram to be a very helpful tool for her creativity, as it allows artists to get their work out into the world, and also connect with and be inspired by other users.
‘There is a real sense of community. The Instagram users can feel my sadness and they respond, don’t be sad, we are here for you. It really feels like we are going through the journey together. I can posts visuals, I can write things, I have built great friendships. A lot of my best friends are from Instagram and over three years they are there for me and I am there for them,’ Danling said.
She undertook this project to search for happiness and inspiration in the simple things, in the everyday things that we take for granted. The mundane, something that has nothing to do with art or anything serious.
‘What I learnt is that happiness and inspiration comes from everywhere. Happiness is not just about being happy or being in a state of happiness,’ Danling said.
‘It’s more about being in a state of balance, because we are made up of emotions. Sometimes, we feel like shit and other times we feel great. It’s a more wholistic system, rather than just being in a state of happiness.’
In June of last year, Danling quit her job and focused on doing something that was for herself. She has continued to create an image each day.
‘It’s an interesting experiment to see how I go every day. Out of 485 photos that I have created, I only selected 18 for my first exhibition,’ Danling said.
‘In documenting every day, you see the ups and the downs and you see the changes, it’s impressive.’
Her first solo exhibition at Kinokuniya came about by accident. Danling went in to purchase a red notebook, for good luck and noticed a flyer about submitting a proposal to the gallery. Kinokuniya have been doing great work in supporting up and coming artists. The gallery manager got in touch with her and the exhibition opened a month later.
‘I didn’t know having your own exhibition involved so much work. It took me a whole month to prepare, lots of retouching of the images, lots of organising stuff, framing and printing the pictures and preparing the texts to go on the walls,’ Danling said.
Opening night was a success and a full house. Quick Bottle supplied the beverages, with only two weeks’ notice, and were really supportive of Danling and the work that she is doing.
‘During opening night I felt balanced and happy. Most of the people were my friends, they came to support me. It was that moment when you see people who love you turn up for you, and having a good time chatting and dancing. All that hard work was worth it,’
Danling is part of a group show in Paris, France that will continue to run until April 2nd. The curator got into contact with her and asked if she would like to be involved. She sent digital files and her creations will be projected during the exhibition. The theme is tools.
‘The interesting thing about my work is that it comes out of nowhere. It is coming from a feeling rather than a specific theme, so everyone can pick out their favourites,’ Danling said.
‘For this exhibition, they picked tools, like a bowl made out of pumpkin, a scoop out of chilli, they picked those aspects of my work to exhibit. They did a little video chat with me during opening night and I met everyone. It was quite fun.’
February of this year, the Apple Store invited Danling to give a talk about her journey. They set up an exhibition space for her where she carved six vegetables as part of a day show.
‘It was beautiful. They were real sculptures and they lasted the day. People were taking photos and thought they looked amazing. At the end of the day, I went in and all the vegetables had wilted and drooped,’ Danling said.
Danling has a creative year ahead of her. Creating more images and exhibiting further when she has caught up with herself. She finds it appealing at some point to share her work with friends on other places in the world. Possibly have a travelling exhibition.
She will be teaming up next month with fellow creative Liane Rossler, an artist, curator and designer and together they will be running a carving workshop. For two weeks they will be teaching people of all ages how to create sculptures.
‘We will be welcoming all ages, from eight years of age and up so that they can use the knife safely. We welcome anyone to come around and have fun,’ Danling said.
‘I am trying to get out of that mindset. It’s fine if you don’t work, if you can still support yourself. It’s good to let it go, enjoy the moment. If you are open to the world then the world is open to you.’
If you want to find out more about Danling and Mundane Matters, you can go to her Instagram account, she posts on a daily basis. She also has a Facebook page and a Twitter or alternatively you can visit her website www.mundanematters.co .
‘My aim this year is to be a very balanced person, not so grumpy. I don’t think work should be a goal for anyone. There is so much more about life and people,’ Danling said.
‘I get emotional very easily, my aim is not just to have a balanced ecosystem within but also so that I can be a better person, and in that mindset be more creative.’
You can catch Danling running an exclusive workshop Mundane Matters Fruity Jewellery Lab at the Kaleido Issue 3 Launch.
Bring your beautiful self and leftover fruit and vegetable in your fridge. Join Danling at her special jewellery lab for the night. Crown yourself with beetroot jewels, give your partner an onion ring, or wear carrot stick necklaces so you will have something to munch on during the night. Don’t miss the giggles while Danling introduces herself with blueberry beetles crawling on her face. Kicks off at 6.30pm. Grab your tickets now!