Making Art out of Plastic

Narani Henson was born in New Zealand, where a love for the ocean was instilled at an early age. Always endowed with a creative intensity across many different genres, Narani’s talents have been strengthened by formal training at Sydney Gallery School, where she completed a Diploma Of Fine Arts, and through a Degree Of Fine Arts at Curtin University. Now based in Byron Bay and working from her private studio, Narani’s focus is to connect the viewer with the beauty of the ocean to provide a positive experience. Narani aims to create a feeling of ownership of this precious and valuable commodity in hope that the viewer then contemplates their personal responsibility.


Interviewed by Lynn Styman-Lane ….

LSL Where did the inspiration come from to become an artist?
NH Its not so much inspiration but more ‘who I am’ if that doesn’t sound corny! I have always been creative. As a child at school the other kids in my class would get me to draw headings and cover pages for assignments. I studied all art subject at college, and as a teenager I was a dancer and dance teacher. I feel lucky to have always had a creative outlet.

LSL Did your family have an influence on your decision to become an artist?
NH I had an amazing childhood that was colourful and adventurous with having hippy parents. I grew up in some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand travelling around in a fully converted fire engine house truck. My parents are both creative, my Dad is a percussion musician and my Mum has always been crafty. They let me do what I wanted with my life. My Mum has always encouraged me to be independent and make my own decisions. I don’t know if they have influenced my direction in life but they support it.

LSL Tell me about your creative space and why you enjoy living in Byron Bay?
NH I share a space with my husband. The wall behind my computer is full of images, photos and keep sakes that is a mosaic of things that appeal to me. I have a work bench for building canvases. I have lots of tidy piles of materials, fabrics, marine plastics and equipment. Boxes of paints, brushes and stuff. There is a wall of surfboards, everything has its place. We live in Suffolk Park and the beach and waves are walking distance. I love being part of a little community full of amazing people, there is always something happening, music, food, waves. Its really hard to separate my love for the ocean with my passion for surfing. I feel very blessed to call Byron home.

LSL Your studies have included a Diploma of Fine Arts and a Degree of Fine Arts has this enhanced your work?
NH Yes, TAFE was excellent! It was so hands on and taught me so many practical skills, I had some great teachers and and got to work along side artists like Reg Mombassa and Euan McCloud. Going to Uni really pushed me to develop my work and I found it hard to intellectualise what I have always just done. I think it has definitely helped me to grow and given me the confidence to produce art that is weird and different.

LSL What are you currently working on?
NH I have an installation to create for the Byron Bay Surf Festival in October, I am going to use marine plastics, water and fabric at this stage. I still have a bit of development to do.  As well as a piece for the opening night exhibition and the beginning stages of my next body of work which is using marine plastics.

LSL How important is it for you to use  recycled material in your work?
NH Using recycled materials is very important, I have made a conscience decision to comment on our consumer society and I do this by transforming materials into ‘something else’. I think being a surfer I feel like I have to be a custodian of the sea. I think like any global issue it can feel over whelming and too big for me to make a difference. But I made the conscious decision to do my part-think local act global, every little bit counts. Inspired by organisations like Positive Change for Marine Life, My Two Hands and Take Three, I started to take responsibility for my beach by picking up marine plastic and rubbish. All the pieces of plastic have come from Tallow Beach in Byron Bay and I have physically collected plastic most days, I have hand stitched each piece of marine plastic on to the canvas to connect with my ideas of ‘needing to be fixed’ or ‘mending’. I have recycled marine rope, cast marine plastic in resin and created sculptural forms from the plastic I have gathered.

LSL What is the best part about working with recycled material?
NH I really enjoy the openness to working with ready made objects like the marine plastics for different reasons. I enjoy the process of collecting and categorising what I find on the beach. It might sound strange but I get sentimental when I find a good bit of plastic. Some of what you find is mind blowing. It also makes me feel like I’m doing something for the environment. It is also challenging to think of creative ways to use plastics to portray my conceptual themes.

LSL Describe your relationship with the ocean, how did it start?
NH I love the ocean, we even called our daughter Ocean. My subject has been water, waves, and seascapes for as long as I can remember, maybe that’s from growing up on an island? Or the fact that I spend so much time at the beach and like many artists I paint what’s around me. I think it’s really part of the New Zealand culture, to respect the sea and as a family we spent so much time at the beach as kids, on sail boats, snorkelling, swimming, fishing. My Dad doesn’t surf but loved to fish and my Mum surfed when she was young. Its away of life in New Zealand.

LSL Is there anything you consistently draw inspiration from?
NH The obvious one is the beaches, water, and waves. But I really think being a part of nature is  the best inspiration for me. A beautiful flower or sunrise, special moments with my daughter and husband, watching the whales or dolphins anything that makes my heart sing.

LSL How does the ocean influence your work?
NH The colours, the light, the reflections, the plastic that washes up on the beach.

LSL You are very passionate about the  sustainability of our environment how does your art work portray this?
NH Through the presentation of my work, I hope to draw people’s attention to the deeper meaning it conveys and in particular the environmental issues we currently face together. I hope to highlight the amount of plastic in our ocean in an attempt to comment on the effects resulting from the by-products of our consumer society.

LSL When you have a free day how do you like to spend your time and with whom?
No surprises here, I go surfing with my hubby and little girl. We often head to the beach as a family and spend the morning having turns catching waves and playing.

LSL Where do you surf?
NH Wherever the conditions are best depending on weather, tides and time available.

LSL You are producer and founder of the first online women’s surfing magazine in  Australia. Where did the inspiration come from to do this
NH After becoming a mum I had to think creatively about “getting in the water”. So I started a little group of mums and bubs ‘beach mornings’ so I could go surfing! I would send out a text to everyone the night before analysing wind, swell, and tide, and then pick the best place to meet. From this, my friend’s husband suggested that I start doing a surf report. I wasn’t into doing that but it was the spark that got Kurt and I to start

LSL Does your art  have an influence on the articles you write for the magazine?
NH ‘Impact’ is a tab on SurfSister and I believe that SurfSister’s audience being surfers and beach lovers are actually very aware of the environment and deeply care about the ocean. There is also an ‘Art’ category under the ‘Culture’ tab that features lots of different surf art. Im not sure if my art influences the articles I write, but a lot of what I write is about women’s surf culture and I definitely think supporting water women that are doing great things for surfing, the environment and culture is really important. There aren’t many positive role models for young girls but there is this underground community of ladies that are so inspirational.

LSL You are an artist, writer and producer where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
NH To be honest I don’t really have a 5 year plan, but I know I will being making art,  surfing and having fun. I have had a lot of interest about my art overseas so I might spend some time abroad.

LSL What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
NH I have been told that art is about integrity and if you are making for the ‘right reasons’ for you personally then that is all its about expressing yourself and always progressing.

LSL Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
NH My Kurtie, he is truly great!

LSL Anything we don’t know?


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