Mustafa Ruhullah, carving, degree show
Image courtesy of Mustafa Ruhullah

News 7 August 2020

Degree Show 2020: Meet this year's graduates - Mustafa Ruhullah

Introduce yourself and your work. What ideas and themes are important to you?

I am a Singaporean, on a journey of discovering my roots that could possibly be in Java, Indonesia.

My work mainly explores the unique characteristics of Javanese woodcarving, in particular, the Gebyok - a door, or a partition, traditionally known as an essential aspect of Javanese architecture. Java, the fourth largest island in Indonesia, rich in diverse cultures, traditions and religions unfamiliar to many.

The Gebyok is an important cultural heritage of the Javanese civilisation and a gateway in the quest of understanding Java, ultimately for others across the globe.

What materials do you use? Why are they important to your practice?

The material I chose for my Gebyok is the mahogany wood. It symbolizes strength and protection, which are important values for me and the Javanese culture. I also decided to carve the Gebyok with carving tools that I had made myself from the iron railway track.

Knowing the strength of my tools and the values of the wood, with careful cuts of knife and gouge, was now transformed and given life.

Describe your studio to us – what would we find?

Dangdut music for the vibe accompanied by friendly roosters.

How has the lock-down influenced your work? What new things have emerged in your work because of the restrictions?

The lock-down gave me a chance to have an intimate relationship with my practice. It gave me strength and I gain a better understanding of the work that I am working.

I am grateful to be surrounded by individuals with love and compassion that motivated me.

I believe that I've managed to understand what Java is and share with the people around me.

What drew you to the School, and what do you want to remember about these last two years?

The Journey: After coming to Indonesia and studying Islam, under the guidance of my father Muhammad Baqir, I gain a better understanding of art based on philosophia perennis in general and tasawwuf, or Islamic mysticism in particular. These teachings inspire a desire to continue my journey in discovering the greater perspective of the art in the school.

I would like to remember the meetings I had with the masters and the learning experiences of their craft, discovering new skills and technique, above all, the beautiful souls that I've met.

When we’re all able to be out in the world again, what are your hopes?

To continue on the quest of discovering Java and to share it with everyone.

About this year's Degree Show:

This year, we will be showcasing our graduates' work online from 6 August to 6 September 2020.

Work will be available to buy directly from the students.