Interdisciplinary (Jewellery, Painting, Installation, Illustration, Textiles)
B Science & B Fine Arts (4th Year)
Hey Zuhairah! Very first thing we've got to ask - how did you get started as an artist?
I guess I’ve never really thought about it but I have always been a creative person. As a kid I had a pretty big imagination and was often creating toys for myself out of recycled materials. I loved inventions and science and so I would use our household waste to create dollhouses, or perform experiments like making my own paper from newspaper offcuts. I also loved sewing, drawing and painting. But how I began as an actual artist (if were to call myself one) was a major fluke! I had never really pursued visual arts and was more performance based, until my subject choice didn’t work out for year 11 and 12. I found myself taking art for HSC because it was something I was stuck with and ended up loving it so much that I had to continue
It seems like you've worked with quite a few different mediums in your art practice, such as metalwork, plastic, painting and illustration. What's been your favourite so far?
I have honestly enjoyed working with all. Each medium offers something different and combining them can allow for more opportunities. However, my favourite has probably been using recycled plastics. Not only is it a cheap and readily accessible material (sadly), but it gives a unique opportunity to repurpose ‘rubbish’ into something beautiful, and could potentially change opinions on the ‘single use’ nature of plastics. This has been something I've incorporated into my jewellery, painting, installation and textile practices and I would love to take this further and see what else I could do!
I saw on your Instagram that you're trying to promote environmental awareness and sustainable practices through your artworks and I absolutely love this mindset - what makes you so passionate about this?
There is so much plastic already on our Earth, yet humans continue to create more rather than recycling pre-existing plastics. Plastic production results in a significant amount of fossil fuels being added to our atmosphere. I just feel like as a nation, Australia is not doing enough to achieve the zero emission goal for 2050. Climate change is not just a threat for the future, we have to start making changes now. Studying science has definitely made me more aware of the implications that global warming and pollution has on the environment. But as someone who loves being in nature, I can notice the way it is changing as a result of human impacts as well. I’ve been saddened by finding the wrapper from someone’s afternoon snack whilst diving for example, and things like that made me alter my routine so my daily life can be better for the environment. No one is perfect but I think we can definitely try harder!!
How do you tie this into your work? What kind of sustainable practices do you think people could get on board with?
Traditional art forms are actually so unsustainable and use so much plastic and virgin materials. Using plastic as my canvas not only saves plastic from landfill, recycles it, and also costs me nothing in comparison to buying a brand new canvas. So it is a major win! It’s difficult though, I enjoy oil and acrylic painting which is toxic to the environment. I guess I am trying my hardest to make my practice as sustainable as can be, and try to always incorporate an environmental message to help spread awareness. Just knowing the impact of what you consume and use is a good practice in general. I try and incorporate scraps and offcuts into my work too, to save buying brand new products, and recycle and reuse wherever I can!! I try and make my turps last as long as possible and it saves money too! A little goes a long way.
You also study marine science alongside your fine arts degree, which is definitely an interesting combination. What made you want to study the two together?
Along with my creative pursuits as a child, I always wanted to be a scientist. As I grew up I had many other career ideas but when it came to choosing, I knew I wanted to do something that could help the environment, and take me out of an office setting. Both art and science do just that, and actually go hand in hand, despite everyone calling it an ‘odd combination’. Science has always informed my art practice, and allows me to communicate science in more creative and accessible ways which I love. I didn’t know that when I picked my degrees though, as it wasn’t a planned decision at all, more of a last minute one. I just thought it was different and could give me what I wanted out of a career. I haven’t regretted it!
Your degree lines up with the Artsweek theme perfectly too! I heard you're getting involved this year - what are you planning on creating for the campus?
It definitely does, which is why I was so excited to participate this year! My friend Zoe and I are both interested in science communication through art which led us to the idea to create a video installation where students can relax and experience a new environment on campus. Our work aims to give students a space to rediscover the value of earth’s natural landscapes through guided introspection and enlighten them to new species which play major roles in our ecosystems. Ultimately, this experience could result in an epiphany, one which could maybe spark some form of change, and gives a voice to the sometimes unnoticed organisms which are integral to our local environment. It is also an opportunity to collapse into a beanbag and sip some tea amidst the stress of university!
How did you come up with this idea for your Artsweek exhibit?
As students, we understand how stressful university can get, and so we decided to create an oasis amidst the cacophony of assessments through a sensory experience. Studies prove that the rhythmic movements of the ocean for example, increase a parasympathetic response in humans, allowing them to enter a meditative-like state. The mass of blue and total quiet recreated when submerged, is proven to slow down heart rates and quicken the reaction time of most people; a common indicator of effective stress relief. We both study science and this has taught us to understand the workings of ecosystems. Our exposure to this allows us to appreciate organisms which are intrinsically important to environments. Based on our individual experiences humans add value to certain species over others (e.g. tropical clownfish are often valued more than our local fish species because of Nemo). We wanted to create something that could maybe change this conception?
And of course, we love being kept in the loop - do you have any other exhibitions, collaborations or projects coming up?
I have a few projects lined up but nothing that will be in the motions in the next few weeks unfortunately as they need a lot more time. I am looking into a project of creating polyester from recycled plastic at a faster rate with the company that I work. This is really exciting as it could have widespread impacts if it is effective! I’m also working on increasing my art commissions as now that have I finished my Fine Arts degree I want to keep creating. I would love to do an exhibition next year.
Final question - do you have something you want to share with the world? Whether it's a quick ramble, something deep or a shower thought?
I think I have rambled enough, but thank you so much for sharing my voice with the wider community! I am so excited to see what everyone has created for Artsweek this year!
Pictured above: Algal Consumption (2019), Self Portrait on a Plastic Bag (2017), Climate Change symbiogenisuit (2017). All images courtesy of Zuhairah Dindar.